Georgian Church Slams Government Over Religion Law

GEORGIAN CHURCH SLAMS GOVERNMENT OVER RELIGION LAW

Agence France Presse
July 6, 2011 Wednesday 9:20 AM GMT

The powerful Georgian Orthodox Church strongly criticised the country’s
pro-Western government on Wednesday after a law was passed allowing
minority faiths to claim legal status.

The Georgian Patriarch — the single most respected person in the
ex-Soviet state — issued a statement saying that the legislation
“contradicts the interests of the Church and of the country”.

“We believe that there will be negative consequences in the near
future and the authorities will bear responsibility for that,” the
statement published on the Patriarch’s website said.

The new law, which was approved by parliament on Tuesday, allows
other religious groups to be legally registered in the overwhelmingly
Orthodox country which has Muslim, Armenian Apostolic, Jewish and
Roman Catholic minorities.

“Georgia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country and every
citizen of this country, regardless of what religion he belongs to,
must have equal rights,” said senior governing party lawmaker Nugzar
Tsiklauri.

But he said that the Georgian Orthodox Church would retain its
special status which is guaranteed by a constitutional agreement with
the state.

Orthodox Christianity has undergone a major revival in Georgia since
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Patriarchate — seen by many people in the country as above any
criticism — has become hugely influential in everyday life, wielding
political as well as ecumenical power.

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