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Russo-Georgian relations warmed up by Orthodox faith

While in the secular world the gap between Russia’s and Georgia’s leaders is growing, religiously Georgia and Russia move closer together.

In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the first face-to-face meeting between Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and his Georgian counterpart, Catolicos-Patriarch Ilia II has taken place. They spoke at a conference attended by members of the clergy.

Meeting as two old friends, they exchanged gifts while cameras rolled and greeted each other with the elaborate custom of an orthodox mass.

“I’m glad to say that this is my first meeting with you after I was elected, thank you for the prayers that you sent to God on the day of my investiture,” Kirill said.

“Your holiness, I see you for the first time as a pastor of the church. I want to congratulate you once again and to wish that God helps you, let God bless you, let peace and wellness be with you,” Ilia II said.

Then they closed the doors and the patriarchs discussed an issue gnawing at the church: the orthodox leadership in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Orthodox Christians of South Ossetia and Abkhazia still remain in religious limbo – caught between a church they're unwilling to accept and another that seems unwilling to accept them.

The republics made headlines across the world in August 2008 when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. The move forced Russia to intervene and later recognize the independence of both states.

In the early 90’s, when these regions first broke-away from Georgia, they also declared independence from the Georgian church and asked the Russian church for recognition.

The Russian Orthodox Church refused, saying the borders of the faith are more than just lines on a map. A statement, with which most experts agree.

“For the Orthodox community, for the Orthodox world, the political disintegration doesn't mean much, because the Orthodox world is ruled and lives according to canonical, let's say, church laws,” Russian Newsweek editor Ilya Arkhipov says.

The Russian Orthodox spokesman said the church leaders talked about the controversy and their prayer to bring the Russian and Georgian peoples closer together.

It's a prayer their nations' elected leaders might also see fit to make.