Tensions in Martvili: Defrocked Clerics Expelled from Monastery

Tensions rekindled in Georgian Orthodox Church’s Chkondidi Diocese, in western Martvili Municipality, where reportedly five defrocked clergymen, opposing new Metropolitan Stephane Kalaijishvili were removed today from Salkhino Monastery.

The Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church had given to a total of seven dismissed clerics until November 4 to clear out of the Monastery. Metropolitan Stephane has struggled since March to take control over the Diocese, as many of the local clergymen and parish denied his authority and remained loyal to Petre Tsaava, his scandalously dismissed predecessor who in 2019 accused Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II of being “beset by pederasty.”

Citing another defrocked clergyman Mikheil Mdivani (Atinogeni), Livepress agency reported that police, accompanied by Metropolitan Stephane and men clad in traditional Georgian garments (Chokhosnebi), arrived at around 05:00 to remove the dismissed clerics from the Monastery. Per various reports, Chokhosnebi executed the removal of the defrocked clergymen.

Speaking with reporters, Mdivani said the development was unexpected. He lambasted Metropolitan Stephane, stressing the senior clergyman is “a liar that we do not accept… he is not a bishop.”

Following the reported removal, media footage showed tensions outside the Monastery’s entrance, with police barring Mdivani and several others, supposedly the defrocked clerics’ parish, from entering the premises. The defrocked clergymen were reportedly later transferred to a police station.

Zviadi Gvasalia, a choreographer and Chokhosani, told reporters he had been inside the Monastery today to observe the cells, going on to deny reports that the dismissed clergymen were removed by force.

Civil.ge reached out to the Interior Ministry to confirm that police had removed the persons. The Ministry said police took “participants from both sides” in the incident for questioning. An investigation was launched under Article 187 of the Criminal Code, involving property damage after the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate’s equipment was damaged, according to the Ministry.

Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate declined to comment on the developments with Civil.ge. The Chkondidi Diocese could not be immediately reached for comments.

Metropolitan Stephane on September 11 defrocked Naskida Gudushauri (Petre), Mikheil Mdivani (Atinogeni), Tariel Gvilava (Danieli), Tamaz Skhulukhia (Ambrosi), Bachuki Khelaia (Daviti), Bata Gvilava (Basili), Markoz Tsulaia (Markozi) for “rebelling against the Church.”

The head of the Chkondidi Diocese also called on the Georgian Government for support in “restoring peace and canonical order” in the eparchy.