On January 9, 2019, Nino Burjanadze, the leader of pro-Russian party "Democratic Movement" held a press-conference where she spoke about the autocephaly of Ukraine. According to Burjanadze, if the Georgian Church recognizes the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church, the Russian Patriarchate will recognize the independence of the Church of Abkhazia. On the same day, Nino Burjanadze talked about this issue at the TV Obieqtivi and noted that the issue of autocephaly of Ukraine is in the interests of the USA in order to promote the split between Russia and Ukraine.
Burjanadze's statement is a manipulation. 1. Recognition of independence of the Abkhazian Church by Russia can be only a formality, as the Abkhazian eparchy has been ruled by the Russian Patriarchate for years. Moreover, the Russian Patriarchate does not recognize the title of Patriarch of Georgia "Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia". 2. Recognition of the independence of the Abkhazian Church by the Russian Patriarchate will be noncanonical, as only the Constantinople Patriarchate has the prerogative to grant autocephaly.
1. Unlike Constantinople, the Russian Patriarchate does not recognize the title of the "Metropolitan Bishop of Tskhum-Abkhazia" of Ilia II.
Russian Patriarchate does not fully recognize the title of Patriarch of Georgia. From the full name of Ilia II, the Russian Patriarchate leaves out the title of "Metropolitan Bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia". Official website of the Russian Patriarchate, within the biography of Ilia II's, mentions the Patriarch of Georgia as "Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi, His Holiness and Beatitude." On December 20, 2018, right after the unification council of Ukraine, Patriarch of Moscow Kirill sent letters to the primates of the orthodox churches, asking for their support against the Patriarch of Constantinople. In a letter addressed to Ilia II, the title of the Metropolitan Bishop of Tskhum-Abkhazia was omitted.
In contrast, the Church of Constantinople fully recognizes the title of the Patriarch of Georgia. In the letter of December 23, 2017, Patriarch of Constantinople congratulated Ilia II on the 40th anniversary of the enthronement of the Patriarch of Georgia.
How Patriarchs of Constantinople and Moscow mention Ilia II
Bartholomew I of Constantinople
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia.
Святейший и Блаженнейший Католикос-Патриарх всея Грузии, Архиепископ Мцхетский и Тбилисский.
His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi.
2. The recognition of independence of the Church of Abkhazia by Russia can be only a formality. The Abkhazian eparchy has been ruled by the Russian Patriarchate for years.
The Moscow Patriarchate has been openly interfering in the work of Bichvinta and Tskhum-Abkhazia Eparchy for years. Accordingly, fears as if the recognition of Church of the Ukraine by the Church of Georgia will make us to lose Abkhazia, are unfounded, as the Abkhazian eparchy is already ruled by Russia.
Although, the Russian Patriarchate does not recognize the independence of Abkhaz church, it is only a formality. In reality, not only Russia interferes in the affairs of the Eparchy of Abkhazia, but it even rules it for years.
- All churches located on the territory of occupied Abkhazia (except the New Athos Monastery) are controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate.
- The Moscow Patriarchate has sent about 15 priests to Abkhazia the majority of whom (with the exception of one priest) had been ordained by the Patriarchate.
- The Eparchy of Abkhazia is ruled by Russian Bishop of Maikop and Adygea.
The Russian Patriarchate represents the main threat for the Eparchy of Abkhazia, as it sends its clerics to occupied Abkhazia that is legally unjustified. Frequently, the churches located in Abkhazia are whitened and damaged in order to erase Georgian trace there.