08TBILISI2438, GEORGIAN PATRIARCH ON CHURCH DISPUTE WITH ARMENIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2438 2008-12-22 13:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO2350
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2438 3571311
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 221311Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0612
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 002438 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL AR GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN PATRIARCH ON CHURCH DISPUTE WITH ARMENIA 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 2411 
     B. YEREVAN 1003 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary/Comment:  Ambassador raised the ongoing 
dispute over Norashen church in Tbilisi with Georgian 
Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II on December 22.  The Georgian 
Patriarch seemed open and willing to resolve contentious 
issues and noted the Georgian priest who was involved in 
moving gravestones while clearing the courtyard has been 
removed.  Ilia II said the issues of church ownership between 
the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) and the Armenian Apostolic 
Church (AAC) are complicated.  He expressed his hope that a 
new commission, discussed during the Armenian Prime 
Minister's visit to Tbilisi in December (reftel), would 
examine the issues at the Norashen Church and general church 
ownership issues under the auspices of the Ministry of 
Culture in order to find agreeable solutions for all sides. 
End Summary/Comment. 
 
Invite Me to Tbilisi 
 
2.  (C)  Ilia II told the Ambassador that he met with Karekin 
II (Supreme Patriarch and Catolicos of All Armenians) in 
Moscow while at the funeral of Russian Patriarch Alexei II. 
Ilia II said Karekin II raised the issue of the Norashen 
Church and said he wanted it solved as soon as possible. 
According to Ilia II, Karekin II was very impatient, saying 
that he should be invited to Tbilisi immediately and the 
Norashen church handed over to him directly.  Ilia II replied 
that a commission has been set up to look into the issue and 
scientists, historians, and others should offer their 
assessments before any decision is taken.  Apparently, 
Karekin II dismissed the idea of the commission and said that 
in his view Ilia II is the sole decision maker on such 
issues.  Ilia II expressed his intention to go forward with 
the commission. 
 
Ilia II Set to Compromise 
 
3.  (C)  Ilia II stated that the Norashen church issue is 
complicated, but compromises can be worked out.  He suggested 
that the wisest choice is to turn the disputed church into a 
museum.  Ilia II told the Ambassador that the priest who 
initiated the controversy has been dismissed; the tombstones 
have been fixed; and the fence issue was "solved".  He also 
said Karekin II has been deliberately stirring up 
dissatisfaction among his followers on this issue.  He 
further told Ambassador that Karekin II's impatience is due 
in part to Russian influence as Karekin II's brother is a 
bishop in Moscow.  (Embassy Note:  We have not confirmed this 
information, nor did Ilia II elaborate on what influence 
Russia is exerting on Karekin II.  End Note.)  Ilia II said 
he preferred Karekin II's predecessor's approach to church 
ownership and other issues between the GOC and AAC. 
According to Ilia II, the previous Catolicos was reluctant to 
risk bad relations over what amounts to "disputes over one or 
two churches."  Ilia II promised to keep Ambassador abreast 
of any further developments. 
TEFFT

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