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Passions about Jvari Monastery


Jimsher Rekhviashvili, Radio “Freedom”

The government of Georgia tries to gain Jerusalem Jvari Monastery back, which is nowadays within the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. According to the statement of the Foreign Ministry of Georgia, a special group is working on the issue; besides that the chairman of the Georgian Parliament intends to raise the question with his Israeli colleague during his ongoing visit in Israel. However, the Jerusalem Patriarchate denies information about ongoing negotiations with Georgian side.

At the briefing in the Foreign Ministry of Georgia, Deputy Minister Nino Kalandadze said leaders of the Georgian government are involved in the process together with the inter-institutional special group, who work on the return of the Jvari monastery. “Every competent institution is involved in the process. As for official negotiations, I can inform you that Davit Bakradze intends to visit Israeli and meet his colleague in near future; relatively, he will also raise the question during his visit.”

The President of Georgia was first to make statement about possible return of Jerusalem based Jvari Monastery during his visit in the Defense Academy on February 25. “Short time ago I set up a group who works on the return and purchase of the Jvari Monastery. Our embassy is instructed to closely cooperate with Israeli government. It is high time to return Jvari Monastery to Georgia and Georgian Church and to renew Georgian prayers there.”

Georgian religious service was conducted in the Jvari Monastery two weeks ago too. Late in February, 2012, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem hosted Patriarch of Georgia on the holy land and in Jvari Monastery; however, later Theophilos III denied information spread by the Government of Georgia about possible return of the monastery. Patriarch of Jerusalem was interviewed by the online newspaper Izru on March 8, 2012.

Extract from the interview: “Short time before the President Saakashvili’s statement, Georgian businessmen sent mediators to us and offered purchase of the Monastery but it is impossible. Please, get me right. We honor huge deed of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the region and Jerusalem. The Jvari Monastery, which was founded by Georgian people, has been education center for many centuries. Naturally, this place is linked with great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli and of course Georgian government is eager to gain the Monastery back like a symbol of their 16-century long presence in the holy land.”

Theophilos III said that Georgian businessmen got in touch with them and not Georgian governmental officials. Gia Khukhashvili said that in 2006-2007 late businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili also tried to purchase the Jvari Monastery back; nowadays, only small circle of businessmen can afford it. “We can name the concrete businessman; there is only one person in Georgia [who can afford it]! His initiative could cause similar hysterical campaign of the government of Georgia. We should suppose that the issue was raised during Patriarch’s visit in Jerusalem and businessmen also supported the idea.”

Gia Khukhashvili spoke about the richest Georgian person Bidzina Ivanishvili. Radio “Freedom” got in touch with Ivanishvili’s spokesperson Maia Panjikidze to check the information. She said: “We cannot confirm information about any kind activities of our side with regard to the Monastery purchase; but as for the government’s activities, it is fact they try to use it for propaganda and for the impact on voters.”

Jerusalem located Jvari Monastery was founded by Giorgi Shavteli of Georgia in the XI century. At the end of the XVII Century Greeks got hold of the monastery after the Georgian state weakened. Relatively, it was assigned to the Jerusalem Patriarchate. Theologian Levan Abashidze said change of the monastery owner is complicated and multi-level process.

“First of all, the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Greek state, other orthodox patriarchates, and Israeli authority should involve the process. If similar negotiations are underway, first of all, the relations must be cleared up with current owner of the Monastery – Jerusalem Patriarchate. Generally, when such delicate issues are discussed, negotiations must lead into valid agreement and only afterwards officials can make official statements,” Levan Abashidze told the Radio “Freedom.”

The Georgian Patriarchate refused to make comment on the issue; the Radio “Freedom” got in touch with Michael Botkoveli from the Patriarchate to get their comments. However, two weeks ago, in reply to Saakashvili’s statement, the Patriarchate released official statement that during his visit in Israel, Ilia II met both clerical and secular high-ranking officials of Israel but nobody spoke about Jvari Monastery at all. The Patriarchate states that the Georgian Orthodox Church has no information about concrete activities of the government of Georgia with regard to the issue.

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