Pope Francis arrived in Georgia on September 30, aiming to extend his outreach campaign to the Orthodox Christian world. The pontiff’s ecumenical message, however, is not an easy sell in Tbilisi.
The central element of the 79-year-old pontiff’s visit was a meeting with the Georgian Orthodox Church’s leader, Patriarch Ilia II. The September 30 encounter with the 83-year-old Georgian patriarch was the latest in a recent string of meetings the pope has had with Orthodox leaders, starting with a first-ever sit-down with Russian Orthodox Church’s patriarch last February, followed by a get-together with the Eastern Orthodox Church’s ecumenical patriarch, Bartholomew, and a visit to Armenia this June.
“The love of the Lord … enables us to rise above the misunderstandings of the past, above the calculations of the present and fears for the future,” local media outlets quoted the pontiff as saying during his meeting with Ilia II.
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Monica Ellena is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist.