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Georgia: How Closely Should the State Embrace the Church?

Catholicos Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II kisses a cross inside Tbilisi’s Cathedral of the Holy Trinity near the end of the annual Alilo religious procession in 2008. A 2002 agreement grants the Georgian Orthodox Church an advisory role to the Georgian government. (Photo: Dean C.K. Cox)

Twenty-five years after regaining its sovereignty, the South Caucasus country of Georgia faces another question about independence — this time, about that of the state from the Georgian Orthodox Church, the country’s main religious faith. 
 
“The Church is quite independent from the state, but is the state independent from the Church?” asked political scientist Ghia Nodia, a former education minister, at a May 18 conference (“Religion, Foreign Influences and Parliamentarism: The Prospect of Consolidated Democracy in Georgia”) in the capital, Tbilisi. “It’s the second part of this question that interests [people the] most in Georgia.”   
 
The official answer from both the Church and state is that they are, indeed, independent. A 2002 agreement grants the Georgian Orthodox Church, the faith of roughly 83 percent of Georgia’s 4.3 million citizens, an advisory role to the government, but without the status of a state religion.  
 
Nonetheless, some contend, the government-financed Church, exempt from taxation, is a state religion in all but name.
 

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Georgia: How Closely Should the State Embrace the Church?

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