By Kostas Onisenko
The establishment of the “Church of Abkhazia” is requested by the Georgian priest, Fr. Bessarion (Aplia), who appears as the “head of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church”.
After the illegal separation of the region, Georgian priests are unable to perform services in the region and the parishes have de facto passed on priests who either supported secession from Georgia or were ordained by the Patriarchate of Moscow.
In an interview with Russian Sputnik a few days ago, Aplia stated that the Moscow Patriarchate would support him in creating the “autonomous church of Abkhazia”.
It is recalled that Aplia had stated that the services in all the temples of Abkhazia would stop until his request was satisfied, while afterwards he appeared in the media talking about impending “autonomy”.
“The Moscow Patriarchate will help us in our autonomous position. The Russian Orthodox Church will assist us in establishing an autonomous church in Abkhazia. It is still too early to talk about autochephaly, we must first restore autonomy. A reconstitution is taking place and it is a very long process. Except for Russia, no one has reconstituted Orthodoxy,” Aplia said in an interview.
According to the priest, the Moscow Patriarchate will help “organize the services in the Abkhazian language. For this reason in Russia special books will be published, the work of the translation committee will be regulated and Abkhazia will receive sacred vessels and many more”.
Aplia said that “the most important thing” is not to associate Abkhazia with the Church of Georgia, and that “we in Abkhazia must be united in it. Then the issue will be resolved easily because Moscow will also understand if we want Constantinople or to re-establish Orthodoxy with them (including Moscow)”.
Speaking to OrthodoxTimes, an ecclesiastical official in the area said that Aplia’s statements should not be taken as a fact but mainly as a lever of pressure.
“The Russian Church has a huge influence on the leadership of the Georgian Church, and as long as the situation remains as it is or becomes even more favorable for the Russians, I do not think that the Patriarchate of Moscow will make such a move (ie the recognition of the Abkhazian church”). If things change and become more unfavorable for the Russian Church, then they can play this “card”, he said.
There is a “paradox” in the Georgian Patriarchate. While the primate is alive, there is also a locum tenens of the Throne. This is Metropolitan Shio, who is the ultimate spokesman for Russian positions in the Church of Georgia.
Well-informed sources say that a possible move – which might be made by the representatives of Russian interests in the Church of Georgia – is Shio’s promotion to the position of leader of the Georgian Church.
At the same time, the same sources state that the situation in the Church of Georgia is very critical and due to the political instability that exists in the country serious developments are expected shortly.