September 29, 2016
In response to some strong reactions among the clergy and faithful to the Pope's upcoming visit to the country of Georgia, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, which will include meeting with His Holiness Patriarch Ilia II, the Patriarchate has released a statement aimed at reassuring those concerned.
"We note that prayerful-sacramental communion between us and the Catholic church of Rome has been severed since medieval times and as long as there are dogmatic differences between us, according to Church law, Orthodox believers do not take part in their services," the statement reads.
The release notes that Pope Francis' visit to Georgia is by invitation of President Margvelashvili and Patriarcha Ilia and aimed at strengthening multilateral relations towards peacekeeping in the region.
Referring to some excited public statements of clergy and laity, the statement calls upon all to remain calm, stating that "It is obvious that the Pope will serve Mass only for Catholics, which means it can’t be considered proselytism, as some people claim."
It should be noted that Pope John Paul II also visited Georgia in November 1999, meeting with Patriarcha Ilia, although no ecumenical prayers took place. The Georgian Church has taken a strict stance on matters of ecumenism, ceasing activity in the World Council of Churches in 1983 and abstaining from the recent pan-Orthodox gathering on Crete, offering critiques of its documents as well as the joint statement stemming from the recent Orthodox-Catholic meeting in Chieti, Italy.