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15.05.2019

Statement of the Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia

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On 15 May, 2019, an extraordinary meeting of the Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia was held in the New Athos Monastery. In the meeting took part: Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar), Chairman of the Council of HMA, Deputy Chairman of the Council of HMA, Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Apostle Simon the Canaanite, Hierodeacon David (Sarsaniya), Ruslan Pandaria, Miron Chalmaz, Mark Trapsh, Dionis Yalanchidi and members of the Council of HMA with an advisory vote Temur Dzidzaria and Akhra Argun.

The reason for the emergency convening of an extraordinary meeting of the Council of HMA was the provocative actions of the clergy of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the AOC, led by priest Vissarion Apliaa.

On 11 May, 2019, at 12:00, a group of clergymen of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church arrived in the New Athos Monastery: priest Vissarion Apliaa, hieromonk Sergius (Jopua), hieromonk Basilisk (Leiba), hieromonk Ignatii (Kiut), hieromonk David (Gvazava), priest Nikita Adleiba, priest Dalmat Gopia and priest Matthias Tujba. The group of clergymen of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church was accepted by the leadership of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia, Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) and Hierodeacon David (Sarsaniya). During the meeting, priest Vissarion appealed to Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) with the proposal to send a “penitential letter” to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill or leave the New Athos monastery.

Once again Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) gave a thorough and comprehensive answer. In addition, Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) offered the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia a simple way to solve the church conflict: to hold a joint divine service of the entire Orthodox clergy of Abkhazia in the cathedral church of the New Athos monastery. But priest Vissarion Apliaa began to insult Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) and Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) had to leave the meeting. Unfortunately, the above-mentioned clergymen of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church made a decision to stay in the New Athos Monastery (including during the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Divine Liturgy), thus leaving their churches without Sunday worship. On 12 May, 2019, after the Divine Liturgy, the parishioners of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia wished to meet with priest Vissarion Apliaa and other clergymen of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church. They expressed their support for Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) and condemned the activities of the clergy of the AOC in the New Athos Monastery.

It should be noted that during the stay of the clergy of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church in the territory of the monastery of St. Apostle Simon the Canaanite, the abbot of the monastery, Fr. David (Sarsaniya) provided the guests of the monastery with all the conditions for living.

On Tuesday, 14 May, 2019, the clergymen of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Orthodox Church, ignoring proposals for joint worship, without blessing of the monastery’s clergymen, began to hold evening worship at the closed doors of the Cathedral of St. Panteleimon. In the morning of 15 May, 2019, the Divine Liturgy was held at the same place. The actions of the clergy of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the AOC in the territory of the New Athos Monastery has one goal, it is to capture the monastery.

In order to prevent this situation, the leadership of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia decided to close the monastery for visitors and convene an emergency meeting of the HMA Council.

On 15 May, 2019, at 11:00am, an extraordinary meeting of the HMA Council was held, the current situation was discussed there. At the beginning of the meeting, the Chairman of the Council of HMA Archimandrite Dorotheos (Dbar) congratulated the members of the Council on the anniversary of the convocation of the 1st and 2nd Church People’s Assembly held on 15 May, 2011 and 2016.

During the subsequent discussion of the current situation, the Council of HMA made the following decision:

1.Close the monastery of St. Apostle Simon the Canaanite until the cessation of provocative actions by representatives of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church.
2. HMA calls to solve all church problems peacefully in the spirit of Christianity.
3. HMA calls the clergy of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church to restore Eucharistic communion through the holding of joint divine services, including on the feast day of St. Apostle Simon the Canaanite – 23 May, 2019.
4. HMA calls the leadership of the Sukhum-Pitsunda Diocese of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church to return to the creation of a two-sided working jointly adopted on March 8, 2019 with representatives of the Church Council of the Sukhumo-Pitsunda Eparchy of the Orthodox Church by Hieromonk Basilisk (Leiba), Priest Dalmat Gopia, Sergey Shamba and Daur Kogoniya, to create a two-sided working phased solution of the Abkhaz church problem.

The current situation in the New Athos monastery can lead to clashes among the clergy and the flock. In this regard, the Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia notifies the leadership and the relevant structures of the Republic of Abkhazia of the need to ensure law and order and public safety in the territory of the New Athos monastery.

The Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia hopes that another test for the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia will be resolved by the grace of God and by the intercession of the enlightener of Abkhazia, Saint Apostle Simon the Canaanite.

New Athos, 15 May, 2019