Ilori Affair: ‘Abkhaz Church’ Returns Donated Icon Back to Tbilisi

“The Abkhaz orthodox Church,” one of the two groups exercising factual ecclesial control in Abkhazia, said it refuses to accept the Virgin Mary icon donated by MP Irma Inashvili, leader of Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots to the Ilori Church.

In a statement released late on August 26, “the Church Council of Abkhaz Orthodox Church” said it “refuses to accept the icon, brought by Georgian lawmakers with the involvement of the adviser to the Abkhaz president as a gift to the Ilori Church from the Georgian [Orthodox] Church, and returns it back [to Tbilisi].”

Noting that “the mission” was carried out without prior notification to them, it said, “such actions are unacceptable until the recognition of the Abkhaz Orthodox Church and the Abkhaz state by the Georgian Orthodox Church.”

Georgian Vice Speaker Irma Inashvili’s piety visit to the Ilori Church, revered medieval Georgian Orthodox church located in Russian-occupied Abkhazia, stirred public outcry among Abkhaz opposition groups.

Lasha Sakania, an aide to Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania, who helped arrange Georgian Kremlin-friendly politicians’ Ilori visit, resigned on August 26 for his involvement in the visit.

Abkhazia is a canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox Church under the name of Tskhum-Apkhazeti or Sokhumi-Abkhazia Eparchy, but Tbilisi has had no ecclesial control over the area since the armed conflict in 1992-1993.

Russian-leaning “Abkhaz Orthodox Church”, together with Constantinople-leaning “Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia,” are the two opposing Orthodox Christian groups having factual ecclesial control on Georgia’s Moscow-backed region.

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