Patriarchal locum tenens Shio Mujiri of the Georgian Orthodox Church spoke against “reconciliation” during his Sunday sermon at the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral on October 17.
The sermon comes as several senior clergymen have urged national reconciliation and forgiveness amid ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s return to Georgia and his subsequent imprisonment on October 1. Saakashvili has been on a hunger strike since.
“People today talk about universal reconciliation. They often misinterpret Christian teaching, saying that you should forgive everyone for everything, always reconcile with anyone,” he preached. “Nothing like that is written in Gospel.”
“We have to ward off and halt evil with love, mercy, advice, and charity, and sometimes with fair punishment,” Metropolitan Shio noted. In extreme cases, it is also justified to banish personal enemies from our lives or society, he added.
Some from the orthodox clergy saw ex-President Saakashvili in prison and signed a petition supporting his release as well. Metropolitan Nikoloz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki, Kumurdo, and Kars paid a visit to jailed Saakashvili on October 13.
“I think we all, the whole country, are facing a big challenge today. The solution is to stop hateful rhetoric and to stop bad-mouthing each other,” Metropolitan Nikoloz said after leaving the penitentiary. The clergyman noted he asked Saakashvili to urge his supporters to “ponder together reconciliation, Christian forgiveness.”
“We have a lot of things to forgive each other,” he highlighted.
Bishop of Margveti and Ubisi, Melkisedek (Khachidze), met Saakashvili on October 15. He called for reconciliation before entering the establishment. I believe that the clergy and the Church should take on the role of a mediator and unite our nation, he argued.
Saakashvili himself raised the issue in a letter penned in jail, stressing “it is of utmost importance to realize that our country and society need a great reconciliation.” The address was read out by Nika Gvaramia, director of government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV on October 14, during a massive rally in Tbilisi demanding the ex-President’s release.
Gvaramia slams Metropolitan Shio
Gvaramia in his late-night talk show on Mtavari Arkhi TV on October 17 accused Metropolitan Shio of being an “agent clad in robes, spiritually decayed, and a despiser of people, of his nation.”
Calling the clergyman a “traitor,” Gvaramia warned patriarchal locum tenens he will be “banished” from society. “This will happen at once, before you become the Patriarch,” he addressed Metropolitan Mujiri.
Gvaramia then aired excerpts from the alleged State Security Service files, leaked in September, which detailed Metropolitan Shio supposedly sacking an altar server over a Facebook post critical to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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Saakashvili, now a Ukrainian citizen, left the country in November 2013 amidst the end of his second presidential term. He was wanted by the Georgian Dream government on multiple charges for some eight years.
The former President was sentenced in absentia in 2018 on two separate abuse of power charges – three years for pardoning the former Interior Ministry officials, convicted in the high-profile murder case of Sandro Girgvliani, and six years for organizing an attack on opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili.
Since October 1, Georgian authorities are leading a new investigation over Saakashvili’s illegal border crossing. In this regard, new charges may be brought against him under Article 344 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, punishable by three to five years of prison.
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