Today the Catholics Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II turned 83. He has leaded a spiritual life of the Orthodox Georgian parish for 38 years on.
Marking the festive date a special concert is planned at Tbilisi Concert Hall for today evening, the Patriarchate announced.
It has also been stated that the Patriarch will sing the church hymns written by him during the concert, head of the Cultural Chamber of Georgia Davit Okitashvili informed.
The Prime Minister of Georgia, the President and the United States’ Ambassador to Georgia released special congratulations today for Ilia II.
Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikahsvili wished health to the Patriarch and hoped that he would stand by Georgians for a long time.
The President thanked the Patriarch for his "huge merit” to the Georgian people and highlighted that "Georgia was a happy nation to have such a spiritual leader as he is.”
Ilia II has been the spiritual leader of Georgia for 38 years. Photo by burusi.worldpress.com.
The President also stressed that the Patriarch’s advice always helped Georgia in hardships and encouraged the people to continue advancement.
I wish you health and long live for the wellbeing of your flock,” the President said.
United State's Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly wished the Georgian Patriarch "continued health and happiness in the coming year, as well as peace and prosperity for all of the Georgian people.”
President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Patriarch Ilia II. Photo by the Administration of the President of Georgia.
Unlike previous years no special reception was held at the Patriarchate for the Patriarch’s birthday this year, when parish enjoyed the opportunity to personally congratulate on the day to their spiritual leader. No certain reason has been provided for the cancelation.
The Patriarch had to take the responsibility of being a Catholics Patriarch of Georgia in a very hard period, when Christianity was suffering significant suppression from the Soviet Union time ideology.
Ilia II was born as Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili in Vladikavkaz, currently Russia's North Ossetia.
Number of spirituals and churches were comparatively less when Ilia II became the Catholics Patriarch of Georgia. Photo by the burusi. wordpress.com.
He is a descendant of the influential eastern Georgian mountainous clan with family ties with the former royal dynasty of Georgia - Bagrationi.
In 1967 he was consecrated as the bishop of Tskhumi and Abkhazeti in west, currently occupied region, and elevated to the rank of metropolitan in 1969.
After the death of the Patriarch David V, he was elected the new Catholics-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977.
Ilia II becomes Catholics Patriarch of Georgia, Photo by burusi.worldpress.com.
On the new position Ilia II initiated a range of reforms, enabling the Georgian Orthodox Church to largely regain its former influence and prestige by the late 1980s.
In 1988 there were only 180 priests, 40 monks, and 15 nuns for the faithful, who were variously estimated as being from one to three million.
There were 200 churches, one seminary, three convents, and four monasteries. During the last years of the Soviet Union, Ilia II was actively involved in Georgia's social life.
He joined the people demonstrating in capital Tbilisi against the Soviet rule on April 9, 1989, and fruitlessly urged the protesters to withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church to avoid bloodshed.
This peaceful demonstration was dispersed by Soviet troops, leaving behind 22 dead and hundreds injured. During the civil war in Georgia in the 1990s, he called on the rival parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
From 1978 to 1983, Ilia II was Co-President of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organisation the Georgian Orthodox Church had joined with other Soviet churches in 1962. In May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church announced its withdrawal from the WCC.
Currently there are about 2,000 acting churches and monasteries in Georgia and up to 3,000 spirituals.