GEORGIA: October 16, 2007
In Accordance With a Decision by the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe Participates In Celebrations of the Georgian Orthodox Church

The Georgian Orthodox Church designated October 14, the day of the Miracle of the Pillar of the Robe of the Lord (Svetitzkhoveli), as the day to celebrate the 1400 th anniversary of the Mtskheta Monastery of the Holy Cross in Djvari and the 30 th anniversary of the Patriarchal enthronement of His Holiness and Beatitude Katolikos-Patriarch Ilii II of All Georgia, reports the Press Service of the Department of External Church Relations (Moscow Patriarchate).

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, a delegation headed by Metropolitan Valentin of Orenburg and Buzuluk departed from Moscow to Tbilisi on October 12, 2007. Visiting from the capital city of Ukraine was His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine; His Eminence Archbishop Pavel, Vicar of the Kievan Metropoliate and Prior of Uspensky Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra; His Grace Bishop Luka of Vasilkovsk, Prior of Glinsky Hermitage; His Grace Bishop Antony of Borispolsk, Rector of Kiev Theological Academy; and Archimandrite Alexander (Drabinko). Also participating in the celebrations were His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia); Protopriest Nikolai Balashov, Secretary of Inter-Orthodox Relations of the Department of External Church Relations (Moscow Patriarchate); Protopriest Leonid Antipov of Orenburg Diocese; Abbess Georgia of Gorny Convent in the Holy Land, and the Prioress of that convent, Nun Mikhaila.

The Constantinople Orthodox Church was representative by its Primate, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew; His Eminence Metropolitan Germanos of Tranoupolis; His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Sisanion and Siatista with other clergymen; the Antiochian Orthodox Church was represented by His Grace Bishop Nifon of Philippopolis, the Antiochian Patriarch's emissary to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia; the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem was represented by His Eminence Archbishop Theophylact of Jordan; the Serbian Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Coastlands; the Romanian Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of Western and Southern Europe; The Bulgarian Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Dometian of Vidin and His Eminence Metropolitan Cyril of Varna and Veliki Preslav; the Cypriot Orthodox Church by His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus and by His Eminence Metropolitan George of Paphos; the Orthodox Church of Greece by His Eminence Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta and by Archimandrite Prokopios (Petrides); the Albanian Orthodox Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Ignati of Berat, Vlora and Kanin; the Polish Orthodox Church by His Eminence Archbishop Simon of Lodz and Poznan; the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia by His Beatitude Archbishop Christopher of the Czech Lands, Prague and Slovakia and by His Grace Bishop George of Mihalovce; the Orthodox Church in America by His Grace Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights, Vicar of the Romanian Diocese.

The celebrations began on October 13 with a moleben at the ancient Monastery of the Holy Cross (Djvari), located high on a hill overlooking the convergence of the Aragvi and Kura Rivers. Officiating at the service was Patriarch Bartholomew, and attending were Katolikos-Patriarch Ilii, the representatives of the other Churches and clergymen of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

A meeting was then held between the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Ilii. Metropolitan Valentin extended the heartfelt greetings of Patriarch Alexy, and the good wishes of the Patriarch of Moscow to the sister Church of Georgia and the Georgian Orthodox faithful. Patriarch Ilii extended his thanks to Patriarch Alexy for his congratulations and for sending a delegation to the Georgian Orthodox celebration. Discussed at the meeting were the state of Orthodoxy in Georgia and in the world, and various aspects of the service of the Georgian Orthodox Church. "Over the course of the last thirty years, I always sensed the hand of God," said Patriarch Ilii, "and the rebuilt churches, the labors of the Holy Synod, the clergymen and flock of the Georgian Church over the years I see as the synergy of Divine love with human effort. First amidst everything was always the Lord Himself. And on the 30 th anniversary of Patriarchal service, I wish to say together with the Psalm-singer King David: 'The Lord reigns!'"

That evening, all-night vigil was performed at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Sameba, headed by Patriarch Ilii and Metropolitan Christopher along with bishops of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches. Patriarch Bartholomew also prayed at the service, as did Archbishop Chrysostomos, and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches and bishops of the Georgian Church.

Before matins, Metropolitan Valentin congratulated Patriarch Ilii on behalf of the Patriarch of Moscow, reading an epistle from the latter and presenting gifts to His Holiness. An icon of the Guardian Angel in a bejeweled oklad was given to Patriarch Ilii as a personal gift, bearing the inscription: "To the Angel of the Georgian Church, His Holiness and Beatitude Katolikos-Patriarch Ilii II of All Georgia on the 30 th anniversary of His enthronement, from His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia." Patriarch Ilii blessed the worshipers with this icon, after which, with his blessing, it was placed on an analogion in the middle of the cathedral. The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church also gave a gift of an icon of St John of Kronstadt to the Djvari Monastery, whose 100 th anniversary will be celebrated next year.

Bishop Michael then extended the greetings of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, giving him an icon of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco containing a portion of his relics.

Later that day, the heads of the delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches met with the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili. Patriarch Ilii and the visitors were then honored at a lunch and dinner hosted by Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli and Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava.

On October 14, Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the Cathedral of Svetitshoveli, in the ancient capital of Georgia, Mtskhet, at which Patriarch Bartholomew, Patriarch Ilii, Archbishop Christopher, Metropolitan Vladimir and bishops of the Local Orthodox Churches and the Georgian Orthodox Church officiated. Afterwards, greetings were exchanged between Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Ilii. President Saakashvili also read his congratulations.

Metropolitan Valentin greeted Patriarch Ilii during a festive trapeza and expressed the joy felt by the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church over the remarkable blossoming of church life in Georgia during His Holiness' reign. Patriarch Ilii in turn expressed his thanks to Patriarch Alexy, and also congratulated Metropolitan Valentin on his birthday, and intoned Many Years to him.

Patriarch Ilii hosted a splendid reception that evening attended by the representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches, the Georgian Orthodox Church and government and civic leaders of Georgia.

On October 15, the guests of the Georgian Church visited the Monastery of St Nina in Bodbe, where they performed a moleben and venerated the holy relics of the saint, who is hailed as "Equal-to-the-Apostles."

That evening, at Tbilisi's Paliashvili State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, an evening celebration took place. Patriarch Bartholomew read an address on the historical spiritual bonds between Byzantium and Georgia. Bishop Nifon read a congratulatory message from Patriarch Ignati, which pointed out that autocephaly was granted to the Georgian Orthodox Church by the Antiochian Church at the Council of 556, which was later confirmed by the VI Ecumenical Council. Metropolitan Joseph read a greeting from His Holiness Patriarch Daniel of Romania. Joining in congratulating Patriarch Ilii were the Ambassador of Greece, Eleutherios Angelopoulos, and of the United States, John Tefft. A concert was then given, followed by a reception held in the Georgian Parliament Building, hosted by its President, Nino Burdjanadze.