COVID-19 provoked a crisis of confidence in the Georgian Orthodox Church?

(from globalvoices.com)La pandemia da COVID-19 ha colpito il mondo in maniera molto disomogenea; la Georgia ha sorpreso tutti per il risultato raggiunto nella lotta contro il virus.
I motivi di questo successo sono diversi e comprendono le accuse secondo le quali la vera portata e le reali statistiche sarebbero state nascoste (secondo la Mappa dell’Università Johns Hopkins [en], alla data del 29 June, in Paese si contavano 926 casi confermati e 15 decessi). Anyway, la prima ondata sembra attenuarsi, thus offering an opportunity to reflect on the reactions of the main actors and institutions of this South Caucasus country.
The Georgian Orthodox Church exercises enormous social and political influence in Georgia, where 83.4% of the population adheres to it. Repressed during the Soviet regime, the church has received substantial financial support in the form of public funds and property restitution, that, secondo un relationship [ka, like all subsequent links, unless otherwise indicated] the 2016 of local NGOs, ammonterebbe a diverse decine di milioni di lari (tali privilegi finanziari sono stati subsequently contested [en] by the country's constitutional court).
The Orthodox church is widely respected in Georgian society: from a study by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) e del CRRC Georgia published last January è emerso che, in November-December 2019, the 50% the population implicitly trusted the church. However, this indicator has been in constant decline for several years: the figure stood at 64% in July 2019 and it was even superior in previous years.
This means that church actions during the pandemic deserve to be scrutinized. Some observers wonder if it will damage its popularity even more.
La Georgia ha ufficialmente recorded his first case of COVID-19 the 26 February. The first reaction of the Georgian Orthodox Church was on 17 March, with the sprinkling of the central streets of Tbilisi, the capital, with blessed water. Archbishop Shalva Kekelia described the act as a way to ask the Lord for help in protecting the country and people from the virus. Three days later, the Patriarchate issued a declaration urging the faithful with health problems to isolate themselves until full recovery and suggesting to carry out religious services outdoors to avoid gatherings in confined spaces.
With the increase in the number of cases, the 21 March Georgia declared a state of emergency [en] prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Asked by journalists of On.Ge if the ban also applied to religious services, Prime Minister Georgi Gakharia he answered which "applies to everything and everyone". A public debate ensued on security during participation in religious services that prompted patriarchy to release a release in data 25 March in which he reaffirmed that, while keeping religious services active, the church supported state measures to manage the crisis. The statement stressed that some media outlets had described the situation in such a way as to suggest that the church could be blamed for the consequences of spreading the virus..
Attempts by the authorities to find common language with the church and the faithful peaked in early April, as Palm Sunday and Easter approach. Gakharia ha dichiarato [en] who would follow Easter on television and the minister of health, Ekaterina Tikaradze, he added that people had to pray at home, since "God is everywhere", not only in church.
Nevertheless, the Georgian Orthodox clergy was adamant, stating that religious services would continue. However, he stressed the strengthening of the social distancing guidelines within the churches, urging parishioners to listen to sermons outside through loudspeakers and ordering the sanitation of places of worship. The church has been less flexible on other rites: eg, the use of a shared spoon to administer the wine of communion during the masses. “It is absolutely unacceptable for church members to doubt the mystery of the sacrament and demonstrate it by their actions, how to refuse to share a teaspoon as a source of infection ", it reads in a church release released after the synodal meeting of 20 March.
In response to the synod's decision, Giga Bokeria, an opposition representative from the European Georgia party, he suggested the church not to expect special treatment and that the restrictions should have applied equally to all institutions and citizens [ka].
Therefore, a part of Georgian society continued to wait for Easter with some discomfort [en]. The 7 March, the theologian and former Georgian priest Basil Kobakhidze granted ainterview to Pirveli TV where he accused the patriarchate of "fanaticism" in his approach to the COVID-19 epidemic. Kobakhidze, who lives in France, he argued that the church has become a "state within the state" and could contribute to the spread of the disease. At the same time, highlighted that the country's political elite and senior clergy were in no danger, since they would have had problems receiving adequate medical care.
And though, the 15 April, the government has declared a lockdown for four of Georgia's largest cities (Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi), preparations for the Easter vigil have continued. Tikaradze he stressed very gently that all members of Georgian society, including the church, they had to share responsibilities with the government to defeat the virus.
Padre Shalva Kekelia, priest of the Church of the Transfiguration in the Tbilisi district of Vake, ha dichiarato that he intends to create a temporary structure for the faithful such that, while respecting the measures of social distancing, could have accommodated 2.000 people. The faithful could have stayed like that in the church for the night, avoiding violating the curfew. Similarly, Bishop Iakob of Bodbe, one of the most influential clerics of the Georgian Orthodox church, he stressed in an interview to InterPressNews that the church had not ordered anyone to attend masses and that "Christians must be responsible for themselves."
The 17 April, Kobakhidze, in another interview, ha dichiarato that the patriarchate's commitment to organize major religious functions posed a serious threat to public health. But, how to stop, in support of his words, not only the most important detractors of the church took sides. The same day, 13 religiosi have signed an open letter in which they declared to temporarily refuse to participate in the liturgy [ka]:
However, in preparation for Good Friday and Easter, the Georgian Orthodox clergy gave the impression of choosing which restrictions to follow. During the lockdown in Georgia, the movement of vehicles was prohibited from hours 12:00. Nevertheless, the 17 April patriarchy ha dichiarato that the ban had not been agreed in advance with the church, therefore the clergy, the choristers and ushers could have moved freely by car to participate in the worship.
The Easter liturgy thus took place in the presence of a small number of faithful compared to previous years, and many of the participants were relatives of the religious.
Hundreds of faithful across the country attended mass on 18 April, despite calls from the authorities to stay home. In the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity of Tbilisi, come reports [en] Reuters, everyone wore masks and respected social distancing. The virus instilled terror in many people who turned to God, Patriarch Ilia II said in his Easter speech. “We must not be afraid of temptation, Christians face problems with gratitude and see the hand of God in everything ... and at the same time try to find the right solution for the problem ", continued the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Although there have been some cases of religious results positive for COVID-19, come an employee of a church in Tskneti [en], outside the Georgian capital, it is difficult to say whether public prayers were the cause. The 5 May, Tikaradze, Georgia's health minister, He said the authorities had not yet identified any "parochial cluster" of COVID-19 cases.
Whether the faithful are infected or not could be irrelevant. For some Georgians, the church's reaction to government-imposed anti-COVID restrictions has revealed how clergy view their relationship with the state and wonder if the lessons of the pandemic could provoke a crisis of confidence about the role of the Georgian Orthodox Church in society.

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