If we describe the visit of Catholicos of All Armenians to Georgia, we can say it was a hope, which clashed with reality. Hrant Mikaelyan, scientific collaborator of the Caucasus Institute, said during talk with Times.am reporter.
“Situation of Armenian churches in Georgia has become worse and worse during the years. If 26 acting Armenian Churches existed in Tbilisi on the beginning of 20th century, there are only two churches now. And the number of Georgian Churches is increased. This shows the whole tendency of the development in Tbilisi, where Armenians have lost not only their dominant role, but also the word “Armenian” is equal with the word “shoemaker”. And of course there is nothing bad in this profession, but Armenian culture for Tbilisi has always been more than just to make shoes.
For example, Sharden, who visited Tbilisi on 1671, wrote that there were only 14 churches there, “Six of them are Greek churches (he menat Orthodox) and belong to Georgians, and the others belong to Armenian.” And Turnephor noted on 1701 that the city had population of 20.000 and 14.000 of them were Armenians and 500 of them were Armenians-Catholics. Now Armenian Community is just 7 % of the population according to the index of 2002.
And let us return to the visit. Here we must note that the visit of Garegin the Second aimed to solve all the arguing issues at once and caused threat of the Georgian Orthodox Church. And if the meeting and joint holy masses seemed to be friendly at first, but we can not say the same about the last meeting with the journalists. Then Armenian religious leader claimed Georgian side to present proofs which would confirm “Armenian Caledonian churches were Georgians” and Georgian religious leader promised “to present such proofs certainly”. And the end of this was the interview when Garegin was accused in attempt to incite Georgians to terrorism and also was accused he did not realize the situation.
If we put away the fact the visit was historical somehow as Armenians in Tbilisi and Javakhk were happy to get some attention by Armenia, but the visit did not gain any results. Two sides remained with the same thay had before: according to Georgian side, Georgian church will have the same status which Armenian Church in Georgia. But this at the same time when there is no Georgian prayer in Armenia and Georgians in Armenian are less for 1000 times, when Armenians in Georgia. So this offer sounds like a application not to disturb on the issue any more.
And of course the issue of supposed Georgian churches must be discussed as well. These are churches which were built by Orthodox Armenians in the middle ages. The announcement by Georgian Church is worthy to be noticed. Ilya the Second announced: “Armenians aim to open new churches in Georgia. We have announced that if Armenian churches are opened in Georgia, so Georgian churches must be opened in Armenia as well.” If we judge by the tone of announcement Georgian Church is troubled with just the return of Armenian churches in Georgia but not the Georgian Churches in Armenia. And this is a argument, which Armenian side should take into consideration during the negotiations. So it can be supposed that it is worthless to claim about the Armenian Churches in Tbilisi but it is worthy to concentrate efforts for those Armenian churches which also are announced to be argued and are in Javakhk,” Hrant Mikaelyan noted.