Georgian Orthodox Church head in Moscow for Russian patriarch’s birthday

(RIA Novosti)

The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia, arrived in Moscow on Friday for events to celebrate Russian Patriarch Kirill’s birthday.

The Georgian patriarch last visited Russia in December 2008 to attend the funeral of Patriarch Alexy II, whom Kirill succeeded as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Kirill will celebrate his 65th birthday on Sunday.

The two patriarchs will hold a working meeting in downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on Saturday. On Patriarch Kirill’s birthday, on Sunday, the two church leaders will hold a joint service at the cathedral.

Patriarch Ilia II will also hold a service in Moscow’s Georgian church of St. George as well as meet with representatives of the Georgian diaspora.

Russia and Georgia have had no diplomatic relations since the end of the five-day war they fought in 2008, but the leaders of the two churches have held a number of meetings to discuss cooperation issues.

In late 2007, Patriarch Ilia II sparked a baby boom in Georgia, pledging to personally baptize any baby born to parents of more than two children. As a result, the country’s birth rate increased nearly 20% in 2008, four times faster than in 2007.