The scheduled Second Church and People’s Assembly was conducted on 15 May 2016 in the Monastery of the Apostle Saint Simon the Canaanite in New Athos, Abkhazia. More than one thousand Orthodox citizens of Abkhazia participated in it.
In 2011, an Appeal addressed to your AllHoliness and the Primates of all Orthodox Churches was made on behalf of the First Church and People’s Assembly, where the problem of the Orthodox flock of our country was described and a request made to establish an interOrthodox Commission chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to investigate this issue.
Confirming the Appeal of the First Church and People’s Assembly, which was conducted on 15 May 2011 in New Athos and attracted 1,110 citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia, 753 of whom participated in the voting, we underline the importance of the participation of the autocephalous Churches in the search for a means to deal with the current critical situation in the life of the Orthodox community of Abkhazia.
The Georgian Orthodox Church rules out any discussion of the Abkhaz issue at an inter-Church level. This is the main reason that the anticanonical situation in the life of the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia is still unresolved and the institute of the Church is absent.
Abkhazians have never considered themselves part of the Georgian nation or the Georgian Church. The canonical authority of the Archbishop of Mtskheta and Catholicos of Iveria never extended to the historical territory of Abkhazia. However, in 1918, Abkhazia was occupied by the army of the Georgian Democratic Republic, and at that time the Metropolitan of the selfproclaimed Georgian Orthodox Church, which had split from the Russian Church, was appointed in Sukhum, the capital city of Abkhazia, and the canonical territory of Abkhazia was declared to be under its jurisdiction.
In 1990, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, having no opportunity to take into account all the political circumstances, granted autocephalous and patriarchal status to the Georgian Orthodox Church within the canonical borders identified in 1943 between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches, that is to say within the borders of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The relationship between the people of Abkhazia and the Georgian Church is far from friendly and fraternal. The main reason for this is the fact that, during the period from 1918 to the present time, the Georgian Church has always supported the nationalist policy of the Georgian authorities with regard to the Abkhazians and the other nations residing on the territory of Abkhazia. The Georgian Patriarchate never made any appeal for an end to the bloody wars that took place in 19921993, 1998 and 2006; as well as in the case of the Georgian aggression against the people of South Ossetia in 2008.
The Orthodox multinational people of Abkhazia have never felt any pastoral support from the Georgian Church’s hierarchs or the Georgian Patriarchate. Far from condemning military action, the Georgian Church always stresses the importance of restoring the political borders of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, thereby justifying the nationalist policy of their state.
For this reason, the Orthodox community and the people of Abkhazia do not recognize the authority of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and, before the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, they call into question the right of the Georgian Orthodox Church to claim jurisdiction over the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia.
In this connection, a survey was conducted in 2013 among the population of Abkhazia in which more than 70,000 people voted in favour of withdrawal from the canonical jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church and of restoration of the autocephalous Church of Abkhazia.
At the insistence of some autocephalous Churches, the issue relating to the establishment of new local Churches and the granting of autocephaly was removed from the agenda of the Holy and Great Council. We express our hope that this fact will not complicate the settlement of the canonical problem of the Church in our country.
The participants of the Second Church and People’s Assembly repeat their appeal to Your AllHoliness as Chairman of the Holy and Great Council requesting that attention be paid to the situation of the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia. We also testify before the Holy and Great Council to the fact that the delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church led by CatholicosPatriarch Ilia, holding since 2010 also the title “Metropolitan of Pitsunda and SukhumAbkhazia”, has no right to represent the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia.
Thus, we once again request the establishment of an interChurch commission, chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with the aim of discussing the issue of reconsidering the canonical borders of the Georgian Orthodox Church and of defining the status of the Orthodox congregation of Abkhazia.
We hope that, with the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Orthodox flock of Abkhazia will become, in the nearest future, a fully-fledged part of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church.