Skip to comments.Abkhazian Orthodoxy at crossroads
Posted on 10/07/2009 4:59:44 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
The Abkhazian wing of the Georgian Orthodox Church is seeking full independence from its neighbor. After the conflict between the two in the 90s, its been hoping for church freedom and counts on Russias support.
Nothing seems to have changed in a small church in the town of Novy Afon since the Abkhazian wing split from the Georgian Orthodox church. Father Vissarion Allia is an active supporter of the Churchs self-rule. Together with local worshippers he would like to see the parishes under the temporary control of Moscow since the republic has been recognised by Russia, eventually leading to a fully independent Abkhazian church.
We are hoping that the Moscow patriarchy will make such a decision. There are historical facts that should not be forgotten. And I think Russia, and Patriarch Kirill in particular, will make bold steps in that direction, says Father Vissarion Allia.
The Abkhazian Orthodox church was formed in the 4th Century. For a long time it remained under Georgian influence but a hundred and sixty years ago it began following directives from Moscow. But with the Soviet Union, and the amalgamation into Georgia, priests were appointed from Tbilisi services held in the Georgian language and woe betide anyone who didn't like it.
The Russian, Abkhazian and Georgian orthodox churches have a lot in common, including their problems. During the Stalin era they were forced into unwanted reforms, and thats something that they have to deal with now, with Russia, Abkhazia and Georgia having become independent states.
The rebellion by Abkhazian priests has been criticised by the Georgian patriarch.
These petitions made by some spiritual leaders cannot be taken seriously, and we do not take them seriously. No one has a right to separate from the mother church, says Georgian Patriarch Iliya.
Although the official position of the Russian Orthodox Church is that the status of the Abkhazian dioceses should remain unchanged, some priests are more pragmatic.
You know, you can make people pay taxes to the government that they dont like. But you cannot force people to confess to a priest that they dont like. Unfortunately there are some interethnic problems in the Orthodox Church. Its also a fact that the next few generations of Abkhazians will never confess their problems to Georgian priests. So we have a question how to preserve Christianity in Abkhazia if they are not willing to accept the Georgian priests, says Deacon Andrey.
Since 1993, when Georgian refugees, among them many priests left Abkhazia, the local clergy has tended to have closer ties with neighboring Russian parishes.
And while talks on the status of the Abkhazian church have not even begun in Moscow or in Tbilisi, the hope is that the controversy will not affect the worshippers.
Moscow stupidly acts against Russia's own interests by advancing the cause of ethnic separatism in the Caucasus, destabilizng the entire region. Now Russia's support for heretical schismatics inside the Georgian church's jurisdiction will seriously damage the cause of Orthodox unity in Ukraine and all over the world.
Stunning... just stunning..
Why bother to be be just plain freaking CHRISTIANS following Christ when we can be Greek Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic, Anglican, Syrian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Presbytarian, Baptist....blah blah blah...
God is God.. Get that in your heads.. you dummies!
How about another civil war to kill all those Christians who are not your type of Christians...sigh.. the idiocy of it all..
All the while the anti-Christ is on the rise and he laughs at our follies....
You forgot Roman Orthodox ;-)
But the Church of Moscow has no Holy men - it has been a govt puppet for some time.
“Now Russia’s support for heretical schismatics inside the Georgian church’s jurisdiction will seriously damage the cause of Orthodox unity in Ukraine and all over the world.”
No it won’t. This isn’t a government matter, though the Russian government might wish it were. This is a matter of canonical jurisdiction. The Russian Church will no more support schismatics in Abkhazia than the Georgian Church will in, say, Ukraine. If either did, its more likely than not that the offending party would find itself out of communion with canonical Orthodoxy. Now that, to Americans who haven’t a clue about Orthodox ecclesiology, might not seem a big deal, but I assure you that it is, especially to the Patriarch of Moscow.
Spot on Kolo. The "Abkhazian" Church is in violation of the canon. This is quite similar to the situation with the secessionist "Macedonian" Orthodox Church and the "Montenegrin" Orthodox Church, neither of which is recognized by any of the Orthodox Churches in communion with Cionstantinople, reven though both are supported by their governments.
Autonomy and eventually independence (autocephaly) must be requested and received canonically. The proof that that such one-sided secessions don't work is the "Macedonian" Church, which split from the Serbian Orthodox Church almost half a century ago (in in 1963) with the help of the Communist government in Yugoslavia, and still remains canonically unrecognized by any other Orthodox Church.
So I guess that means you also support keeping the Ukraine Orthodox under Moscow's jurisdiction as well.
The war in Georgia was not fought over religion.
In most cases these are jurisdictions that predate the ethnic people that live there now and when there were no national borders - all within the Roman and then Eastern Roman empires.
True, but this caused problems earlier — like many of the Southern Slavs and the Bulgarians felt that their language and culture was being squashed under the weight and majesty of Greek culture and language, and felt that that extended to the church too
You both are correct that it was not fought over religion but we are dragging religion into it.
Using religion to start wars is unforgivable
“Ok, but in my limited readings on this, Churchs like the Bulgarian Orthodox Church were formed without this requests. Why not allow ethnic groups autocephaly as long as they maintain the canonicity and the faith? I don’t understand that.”
Your question can be answered on several levels. The ethnic one is the easiest. The establishment of “ethnic” churches is emblematic of the heresy of ethnophyletism. It became a particular problem in the 19th century with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It has shown up in the 20th century in the establishment of “churches” like those mentioned in Kosta’s post but the same problem seems to be coming up in Ukraine right now.
The other problem is that the canons simply don’t allow for the Patriarchates to divide up the canonical territory of another Patriarchate. When Greece and Bulgaria took their autocephally, they spent years in non-canonical status. The Albanian Church did not because it was given its tomos of autocephally by its mother church Constantinople. The autonomous status of the Antiochian Church here in America is not problematic because it was created by its mother church.
“like many of the Southern Slavs and the Bulgarians felt that their language and culture was being squashed under the weight and majesty of Greek culture and language, and felt that that extended to the church too”
That is classic ethnophyletism. Frankly, the calls for an American Orthodox Church are equally heretical.
These Georgian borders are artificial borders created during the Soviet/Stalin era and when the USSR fell apart these people found themselves suddenly minorities in regimes that were embracing nationalism. Nationalism tends to scare minorities who are not of the same nationality.
We are not dragging religion into this but rather Tailgunner Joe is as part of - and this is an assumption - guess - not mind reading just guesstimating on my part to the best I can figure - that Joe has an anti-Russian bias - and he is thinking to make some hay over this.
Abkhazia is really leaning the wrong direction.
Thanks — and is there any basis for modern day ethnic groups to complain that their ethnicity is being “dominated” by another? Mainly Greek — apologies for any offense, but Greek culture, language and history has overwhelmed many cultures from ancient times until even the present day.
“Thanks and is there any basis for modern day ethnic groups to complain that their ethnicity is being dominated by another?”
Whether there is a basis or not, it happens all the time. The situation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem springs to mind.
“Mainly Greek apologies for any offense, but Greek culture, language and history has overwhelmed many cultures from ancient times until even the present day.”
No offense taken. Hellenism has been the great civilizing force for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. To the extent that Hellenism has been abandoned, by the later Mohammedans and certainly today by secularizing forces throughout the world, we’ve had trouble. +BXVI himself has written about this.
Now, plain old Greekiness never accomplished much of anything except perhaps some good food.
To the extent that Hellenism is rejected, the concept of the Christian Oecoumene and the Christian omogenia likewise are diminished in favor of parochial ethnic identifications which can, and have and do take on a greater importance than the Faith itself and as experience teaches us, can lead to violence. That’s why ethnophyletism is considered a heresy.
If the concepts of Oecoumene and omogenia are inculcated in an individual Christian, then it is not surprising for that Christian to find that he or she has more in common, at base, with say, a faithful Levantine or Ethiopian Christian than with the Baptist neighbor down the street. Conversely, that same Christian likely will have nothing at all in common, save perhaps for a love of souvlakia, with the life long Greek Orthodoxer who shows up at the parish twice a year, on Pascha (long enough to get the “Phos”)and March 25th, Greek Independance Day!
His reply was honest and two fold.
A) The Greeks were wiling to accept martyrdom and humiliations more easily at the hands of the Muslims who ruled over them (and that the Muslims would not allow Christian education but in some places like mainland Greece the Muslims were not so numerous on the ground to be able to suppress Christian education so readily).
Part B) is controversial he told me because few Christian Orthodox would admit it openly in this age of nationalism but for the Orthodox Christians of the Middle East still view themselves still as Rhomaioi ("Romans") and the Greek connection reminds them of their shared Romiosini since being "Roman" in the east meant being culturally and linguistically Greek (and Orthodox Christian) and importing Greek clergy reminds them of that Roman legacy.
“Part B) is controversial he told me because few Christian Orthodox would admit it openly in this age of nationalism but for the Orthodox Christians of the Middle East still view themselves still as Rhomaioi (”Romans”) and the Greek connection reminds them of their shared Romiosini since being “Roman” in the east meant being culturally and linguistically Greek (and Orthodox Christian) and importing Greek clergy reminds them of that Roman legacy.”
Nikas is correct. Some years back, a Palestinian delegation visited our town. The Orthodox community was invited to a reception for them. I had the exact same conversation with an Orthodox Christian woman from Ramallah and several similar conversations, absent the Greek priest business, with a number of the Mohammedans in the group. Many of these people view themselves, as you say, as Rhomaioi, quite literally and all of them self identified as “Hellenes”.
The Arab Christian I spoke to did not view himself as an ethnic Greek - he knew some Greek from Church - but he self identified as a Rhomaios aka a "Roman" though is ancestors probably spoke Greek before the Arabs came. I am assuming the Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land were a composite of Hellenized Jews who accepted Christ and gentile settlers like Greeks and Roman colonists. Orthodox Christians in the Middle East were called either Greeks or Romans (as a cultural+religious name not an ethnic identifier) by the Muslim Arabs and Turks until recently.
“The Arab Christian I spoke to did not view himself as an ethnic Greek....”
They were using the term to denote “citizenship” in an Hellenic culture, not as an ethnic designation.
“Orthodox Christians in the Middle East were called either Greeks or Romans (as a cultural+religious name not an ethnic identifier) by the Muslim Arabs and Turks until recently.”
And what do the Turks call the Ecumenical Patriarchate to this day? The “Rum Patrikhanesi”
Oh, I see. I guess Greek and Roman is interchangeable in that part of the world.
Quite interesting! Thanks for sharing
“Oh, I see. I guess Greek and Roman is interchangeable in that part of the world.”
No, not “Greek”, “Hellene”, as in people who come from an Hellenic culture.
Ukraine should treat Russians the way Georgians are treated in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Russian “church” supports the Russian government and it supports the Russian invaders’ activities in Georgia, therefore the Russian “church” supports the schismatics, just like the Russian government does. They will pay for this.
“The Russian church supports the Russian government and it supports the Russian invaders activities in Georgia, therefore the Russian church supports the schismatics, just like the Russian government does.”
Who told you this? Is someone validating your hatred of Orthodox Christianity or are you simply making things up?