Russian, Georgian patriarchs seek reconciliation between two peoples

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia (R) and Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia ll (L) answer journalists’ questions after a meeting in Kiev Pechersk Lavra (RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatakov)
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia ll has asked Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to help in restoring relations between the two nations, which were cut following the August 2008 war in the Caucasus.

“The political relations which have formed between Russia and Georgia are totally unacceptable ones. We are brotherly Orthodox nations, and these relations were created by the envy of our enemies,” the Patriarch Illia said while addressing his Russian counterpart, cites Interfax.

The head of the Georgian Church stressed that "we must do everything we can to restore friendship and fraternity among our nations and states”.

“Great responsibility lies with you, Your Holiness. I hope for your wisdom. I have known you for many years. You must go down in the history of Russia and Georgia as a peacekeeper, as a man who created peace between the two peoples," Illia II said.

Patriarch Kirill, for his part, assured that the sides will be working on reconciling peace between the peoples and countries of the common faith.

The Russian and Georgian religious leaders met in Kiev on Thursday, where festivities were held to celebrate the Day of Christianization of three Slavic nations – Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. On this day, the Orthodox Church commemorates Prince Vladimir – the ruler of Kiev – who baptized the first citizens to become Orthodox Christians in 988 AD.

The August 2008 conflict, also known as the five-day war, was launched when Georgia attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinval, almost ruining the city. Moscow had to move in to defend the South Ossetians, many of whom hold Russian passports, as they sent troops into the region. Georgian troops were ultimately pushed out of the republic.

Shortly after the conflict, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Diplomatic ties between the two former Soviet republics have been cut since 2008, and President Mikhail Saakashvili was declared persona non grata in Moscow.

On May 9, when Russia and other former Soviet Republics celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany in WWII, President Dmitry Medvedev sent letters to his counterparts to congratulate them on Victory Day. There was one exception, though. The message sent to Georgia was addressed to the people rather than the president.

“Russia has always been, and will continue to be committed to the centuries old traditions of neighborliness and friendship with the Georgian people. We want to see Georgia as a prosperous and free state, living in peace with all of its neighbors,” the letter read.