Georgian Orthodox Church

Patriarch Returns to Georgia; Discusses Cyanide Case in Patriarchate

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The Patriarch of Georgia Ilia ll returned to Georgia in the evening of February 20 from Berlin, where he underwent a gall bladder surgery. A day after his arrival, the Patriarchate of Georgia began to officially discuss the ‘Cyanide Case,’ in which archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze was arrested in an alleged plot to poison a high-ranking clergy member in the Georgian Orthodox Church earlier in February.

“It is very saddening that such unfortunate events developed here. We are thinking of examining the case together with the government and we will make conclusions. I’m sure that everything will end peacefully,” the Patriarch said after his arrival in Georgia.

The discussion in Patriarchate was also attended by President Giorgi Margvelashvili. The president stated that fathers and bishops are openly discussing existing challenges within the Georgian Orthodox Church: “This is a meeting where everyone has a different opinion and there is opportunity for discussion. Such openness, democracy, and acceptance of others’ opinions is good to see.”

President Margvelashvili says that in the presumption of innocence of the suspect in the case, archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze, has been violated. The president says that he “and his lawyers should be able to present their truth to the society. With this approach we’ll get to the right answers.”

Discussion of the Cyanide case continues in the Patriarchate. On February 13, Rustavi 2 TV published a letter in which archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze allegedly revealed financial violations within the Patriarchate of Georgia. In the letter Mamaladze allegedly addresses Patriarch Ilia ll stating that “some high-ranking officials from the government and representatives of the Patriarchate of Georgia have cruel interests regarding the properties of the Georgian Patriarchate. . .Taking everything into account, I kindly ask you to audit the Patriarchate’s properties and finances in order to get rid of this vagueness.”

Before today’s meeting in the Patriarchate, the chairman of the Patriarchate’s department on relations with prisoners, father Giorgi Tevdorashvili, stated that the involvement of the State Audit Office of Georgia “is not a top priority.” “The most important is to make sure that truth wins. ...The most important is for society and the church to take the side of truth in regards to these horrible accusations against father Giorgi [Mamaladze],” he said.

Archpriest Mamaladze was arrested by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia on February 10 at Tbilisi International Airport, and found with cyanide in his luggage. He was on route to Berlin, Germany, where the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, is recovering from a gall bladder surgery.  At a special briefing on February 10, the Prosecutor’s Office explained that an investigation began a week earlier when an individual approached them claiming that Archpriest Mamaladze had asked for help to obtain cyanide. The Prosecutor’s Office says Mamaladze wanted to get the poison before his departure to Berlin. Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze said his office has audio and video evidence to support their claims, but will not release the evidence or talk about any details “due to the sensitivity of the case.” The Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the most influential institutions in the country.

On February 16, the Prosecutor’s Office press service told the media outlet Rezonansi that Archpriest Mamaladze is charged with the intention to murder “an individual” from the Patriarch’s surrounders, but not the Patriarch, as was widely speculated. The Prosecutor’s Office says that their statement was wrongly understood by the government, clerics, and society, Rezonansi reports. They did not specify further who was the target of the alleged planned poisoning.

The parliamentary minority party, Movement for Liberty - European Georgia, has demanded for the resignation of General Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze, saying that over the past week he has emotionally stressed society and undermined the prestige of Georgian Orthodox Church.

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