Church, Government Leaders Address the Nation on Christmas
The clergy and the government officials addressed the parish of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which traditionally celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7, in accordance with the Julian Calendar.
- The traditional Christmas epistle of Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church focussed on the value of the perennial and spiritual as a counterweight to the passing and material. It stressed the importance of spiritual learning, which is achieved “through word and canon [of the apostles], through wars, victories, and defeats.” It focussed on the importance of “justice and unity” especially since, “we are occupying a complex place geopolitically and face many challenges.” In a congratulatory conclusion, Ilia II singled out “suffering and injured children as a result of the war of Ukraine”. In keeping with the Georgian Orthodox Church’s cautious official position, this was the only time Ukraine was referred to in the epistle.
- Archbishop of Poti and Khobi, Grigol, struck a discordant tone dedicating most of his Christmas address to Ukraine, particularly calling for respect of the military “who defend their motherland and statehood” and singling out “hundreds of our compatriots among them, who defend Georgia in Ukraine. May the Lord give His blessing to the defenders of the motherland and those of our compatriots who have fallen, but triumphed over death!” stressed the Archbishop, lambasting “mistrust, hate speech, alienation, and excessive confrontation” in the society.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Speaker Shalva Papuashvili, and Tbilisi Mayor, Kakha Kaladze, alongside other government officials, attended the mass at the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi.
- PM Garibashvili said in his brief congratulatory address to his compatriots, that the “Birth of Jesus played a decisive role for humankind, became an example of kindness, forgiveness, tolerance, and unity among men”, bringing the message of “hope and joy.”
- President Salome Zurabishvili did not issue a separate statement, she briefly congratulated the compatriots on Christmas through social media, and offered sweets and gifts to the traditional Christmas procession passing at her residence.