Worship in churches of Georgia’s Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia has been temporarily suspended until the status of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church has been determined, however the churches remain open to parishioners, the head of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church Father Vissarion (Aplia) said on the air of Abkhaz television, reports Russian media outlet Ria Novosti.
Today's clergy - let them put the question to their bishops there, so that the bishops raise the question to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill how to proceed. Thirty years like this to be in such a situation is impossible ... Therefore, I have now suspended [services in churches]", said Aplia.
He added that worship had not been suspended in the Sokhumi cathedral.
Father Vissarion said that during the Second World War, the Georgian government incorporated the Abkhaz Orthodox Church into the Georgian Orthodox Church without a canonical decision. He expressed hope that the Moscow Patriarchate will now determine the status of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church.
Ria Novosti reports that the Georgian Orthodox Church lost control over the region and the believers of Abkhazia due to the 1992-1993 Georgian-Abkhaz war. Then, for political reasons, most of the Georgian clergy were forced to leave the territory of Abkhazia.
A small group of local parish priests began to restore the spiritual life of the region. They made up the diocesan council and elected priest Vissarion Apliaa as temporary governor of the Sukhum-Abkhaz diocese.
At the same time, with the support of the Russian Church, several Abkhaz received a theological education and were ordained to the priesthood.
In addition, priests from Russia serve in Abkhazia with the blessing of the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.