TBILISI (Combined Sources)—The Armenian Apostolic Church of Georgia on Wednesday condemned Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Reintegration for refusing to acknowledge the Armenian Diocese of Georgia during a conference held a day earlier. The Georgian official’s remarks, the Church said, are undemocratic and violate the human rights and dignity of the country’s Armenian minority, Armenian Public Radio reported.
Speaking at a conference Tuesday examining the problems and perspectives of the Armenian Community of Tbilisi, Deputy Minister of Reintegration Yelena Tevdoradze brazenly told her Armenian audience that the Armenian Apostolic Church “will never be granted an official status” and “will only be a so-called branch in Georgia.”
“I repeat, we will not recognize the Church of Echmiadzin,” Tevdoradze reiterated before storming out of the hall where the conference was taking place, ArmRadio said.
Responding to the outburst, the Armenian Apostolic Church released a statement Wednesday articulating the growing concerns of the Armenian community regarding their religious freedoms.
“The Deputy Minister’s statement is worrisome and not understandable to the Armenian community, especially if we take into consideration that Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili has had a number of meetings with representatives of traditional religious communities, including the leader of the Georgian Diocese,” the statement said, adding that Yakobashvili had assured the Church the government would amend the Civil Code to grant legal status to the religious communities of Georgia.
“Such stance of Mrs. Tevdoradze does not derive from the principles of Georgia’s democratic policy, since it violates human rights and the dignity of the Armenian community, as well as other traditional religious communities of the country,” the statement continued. “Moreover, it is against even the official position of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, who is in favor of giving the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia and other traditional religious entities the status of a public legal entity.”
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, along with other religious denominations, has repeatedly demanded the Georgian Government grant legal status to the Armenian churches in Georgia.
“It’s a pity that twenty years after independence the status of religious communities remains unsolved,” the statement said.
According to ArmeniaNow.com, Tevdoradze remarks on Tuesday followed an argument with the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio to Georgia, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. The Archbishop criticized the deputy minister’s position, saying she was making statements “for the sake of suggesting something, without going deep into the essence of the problem.”
“You will never come across such a practice in the world when a government suggests a traditional church to be registered as a club or an NGO,” the Catholic clergyman was quoted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service as saying.
Meanwhile, the Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, has for the second time, postponed his visit to Georgia. According to Echmiadzin, the visit has been pushed back because the Georgian Catholicos-Patriarch is ill. Some Armenian media outlets, however, speculate the postponement was due to the deputy minister’s remarks.