Pope Francis arrived in Tbilisi on September 30th, and was greeted at the airport by the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, the First Lady Maka Chichua and the Georgian Patriarch Ilia the Second.
On Friday the 30th of September, the Pope had a series of meetings with representatives from the Georgian government, civil society and the diplomatic corps. Later he met with the Patriarch and Georgian religious leaders before meeting with the Assyrian-Chaldean assembly at St Simon’s Catholic Church.
At the Presidential Palace the Pope made a speech, where he said “I thank god for giving me this opportunity to come to this blessed land, a place of vital exchanges of cultures and civilizations and the place where Christian values and dignity took root in the 4th century.”
At the Patriarchate of Georgia, Pope Francis and Ilia ll of Georgia drank a toast to each other. The Patriarch said, “God bless the Roman Catholic Church! May Pope Francis live a long life” while the Pope replied: “Thank You. God bless the serenity [Patriarch of Georgia] and the Georgian Orthodox Church!”
On Saturday October 1 the Pope will hold a mass at 10:00am in the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium [also known as the Locomotive Stadium, 76 Chavchavadze Ave.]
The Pope’s arrival in Tbilisi was also met with protests. Orthodox priests and activists gathered in the road from the airport in protest against his arrival. The group has claimed that the Pope is a “spiritual aggressor” and is at odds with orthodox values.
Some clerics have claimed that the Patriarch only agreed to meet with the Pope out of politeness.
Earlier in the month protesters gathered in front of the Embassy of the Vatican in Tbilisi to pray in silent protest against the Pope’s visit. The group claimed that the Pope is a “patron of sodomy”. The Patriarchate of Georgia condemned the statement, “it’s absolutely unacceptable for the priests to make such radically negative statements”.
The Pope is scheduled to leave Tbilisi at 07:55 on October 2nd.