Following the weeks-long controversy surrounding the Ninotsminda orphanage, Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II on June 14 appointed Bishop Jakob of Bodbe (Konstatine Iakobashvili) as the head of the church-run foster home, replacing Skhalta Bishop Spiridon. The Orthodox Church later said Bishop Spiridon, who ran the orphanage for 17 years, quit on his own decision.
Shortly after his appointment, Bishop Jakob allowed media to enter the orphanage premises and made remarks. “Only the children that want to remain here will,” he said, adding that the Ninotsminda Orphanage will be converted into “a small house type institution,” in line with international standards and Bishop Spiridon’s preexisting plans.
Asked if the Public Defender’s Office would be allowed to enter the church-run foster home for a monitoring visit under his management, Bishop Jakob noted that “it is too early to say.” “I will get acquainted with the situation and then I will make a decision,” he underscored.
Noteworthy that a day ahead of his appointment, Bishop Jakob and Georgian Patriarch’s locum tenens Metropolitan Shio (Mujiri) met with the EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell, as well as representatives of the Georgian Health Ministry, UNICEF, and World Vision, during which the attendees discussed the Ninotsminda orphanage situation.
A controversial and outspoken church figure, Bishop Jakob is well-known for his political statements, including instances of alleged pre-election agitation during his sermons. Most recently, the 59-year-old bishop openly spoke out against former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, as well as former President Mikheil Saakashvili. He also recently claimed he will “undoubtedly involve himself in politics” if necessary, stressing the political party he supports will “surely” garner significant support.
Bishop Jakob’s appointment as the head of the orphanage, which drew public attention over the possible cases of physical and sexual violence against the minors, comes as he has actively commented on the controversies surrounding the foster home, infamously remarking previously that “it is not a surprise if a stronger senior uses force on a child who will not understand by a word.”
Background: Ninotsminda Orphanage Controversy
The church-run foster home came into the spotlight after representatives of the Public Defender’s Office were twice denied a monitoring visit, triggering public outrage and an emergency temporary measure from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Following the weeks-long controversy, the Tbilisi City Court ruled to remove children with disabilities from the Ninotsminda orphanage – a decision the Orthodox Church plans to appeal. 30 minors, including seven with disabilities, overall have been removed from the foster home to date, according to the Agency for State Care. The Agency also said it continues to monitor the remaining 23 beneficiaries around the clock.
Read more on the Church-run Ninotsminda Orphanage controversy below:
- PDO: Student Evicted from Church-run University Dorm over Orphanage Testimony
- Orthodox Church to Appeal Ninotsminda Orphanage Ruling
- Court Rules Removing Kids with Disabilities from Church-run Orphanage
- CSOs Call for Swift Gov’t Action on Church-Run Orphanage
- Church-Run Orphanage Controversy Continues
- Public Defender Monitors Refused Access to Church-run Orphanage, Again