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Self-Styled ‘Abkhaz Church’ Leader Calls Invite to Tbilisi ‘Deceit’

Priest Vissarion (Aplia), head of the Russian-leaning “Abkhaz orthodox church,” called his recent invite to Tbilisi by the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate “another deceit of theirs.”

The Georgian Patriarchate, in a letter dated October 12, invited the priest to Tbilisi to discuss “problematic issues,” after the Abkhaz religious group addressed Georgian and Russian Patriarchs demanding independence from the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Aplia told an Abkhaz TV network on October 21 the “issue is not decided in Tbilisi,” but rather in Moscow. “Let us return there and talk,” he stressed.

Voicing accusations against Tbilisi, he said it is not worth going for discussions to Georgia proper “where you are being murdered, where you are being destroyed.”

Secretary of Georgian Patriarch Ilia II, Archpriest Mikheil Botkoveli told Civil.ge on October 21 that the Patriarchate had invited Aplia for a historical overview and to launch some form of dialogue, after denouncing his independence claims.

The GOC vehemently refutes the claim by the “Abkhaz church” that it was never historically part of the Georgian Church as an attempt to “distort ecclesiastical history.”

Abkhazia is a canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church under the name of Tskhum-Apkhazeti or Sokhumi-Abkhazia Eparchy, but Tbilisi has had no ecclesial control over the area since the armed conflict in 1992-1993.

Russian-leaning “Abkhaz Orthodox Church”, together with Constantinople-leaning “Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia,” are the two opposing Orthodox Christian groups having factual ecclesial control on Georgia’s Moscow-backed region.

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