The statement said that priest Vissarion (Aplia), who was ordained by Georgian Patriarch Ilia II and is still assumed under the GOC’s jurisdiction, “distorted” ecclesiastical history by claiming that the “Abkhaz Orthodox Church” was never part of the Georgian Church.
The GOC reminded the priest that “Abkhazia is a historical part in both political and ecclesiastical terms,” while the liturgy in the region was always performed in the Georgian language.
On February 19, priest Vissarion (Aplia) announced that he suspends services in all churches across Abkhazia before the determination of the “Abkhaz Orthodox Church” status from Moscow.
“We cannot be part of the Georgian Church, we were not part of the Georgian Church and we will not be,” priest Vissarion (Aplia) told Abkhaz TV.
In fact, Abkhazia is a canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church under the name of Tskhum-Apkhazeti or Sokhumi-Abkhazia Eparchy. However, Tbilisi has had no ecclesial control over the area since the armed conflict in 1992-1993.
Two opposing Orthodox Christian groups have factual ecclesial control on the Russian-occupied region, the “Abkhaz Orthodox Church,” and the Constantinople-leaning “Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia.”