7 Apr 2014 - 14:46
The head of the Orthodox Church has bestowed the title of "holy city” on Georgia’s historical city of Mtskheta.
The area is revered by many Georgians and is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.
Mtkheta is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and is located 20 kilometres north of Tbilisi.
The announcement was made by Georgia’s Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II during his Sunday sermon, and said the decree on bestowing the title of Holy Town upon Mtskheta had already been enacted.
"Mtskheta is regaining its ancient name and full title of a holy city and of Georgia's sacred capital,” said Ilia II during his liturgy at the Cathedral of Saint Trinity in Tbilisi.
The city was awarded the honour in accordance with the final will of Melkisedek I, the first Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, who reigned from 1010 to 1033. He has been revered as a saint by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
In his will, written in the 11th Century, Melkisedek I dubbed Mtskheta a Holy Town.
In addition, the will read the Annunciation Festival must be celebrated in Mtskheta Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Svetitskhoveli is famously known as the burial site of one of the greatest Christian relics - Christ's mantle. Svetitskhoveli has long been the principal Georgian church and is one of the most venerated places of worship for locals and Christian pilgrims worldwide.
"A custom of pouring holy water to the city of Mtskheta was deeply embedded in the clergyman’s rituals. Thus, I bless you and bestow upon you the rights to pour holy water on your houses, streets where you live, your children and everything and everyone around you not only in Mtsketa but also in Tbilisi,” the Patriarch said in his sermon.
The Annunciation is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. The Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates the holiday on April 7.