Georgia: Orthodox manifest

Georgy Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
Vestnik Kavkaza – Janaury 2014

The Christmas sermon by Catholicos Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II stirred up public opinion. There were several clashes near the patriarchy and several press conferences of church officials who had to explain the position of the head of Church on artificial insemination, conceiving in vitro, and surrogate motherhood.

The church leadership has always warned about the necessity to follow the Commandments of the Church in “bio-ethnic issues”, but this time the Patriarch’s speech was especially fierce. Traditionally, the Christmas sermon was read not by Patriarch himself, but by one of bishops with a thunderous voice: “A family where a child was conceived in vitro cannot be happy; children who are born by surrogate mothers will always be troublesome, even if they grow in prosperity, they will carry this burden for all their lives,” he said.

The speech touched on an important aspect of social life. The point is that Georgia takes one of the top places in the world, according to the number of childless families. One of deep reasons for this is not biological, but social – non-admission of early marriages and marriages in mature age. 22,000 families wait for adoption, but there are only 18,000 babies for them. That’s why childless families often resort to medical achievements to cope with the problem.

The process wasn’t ignored by bishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church. But reaction of the Church was too severe. First of all, many people believe Patriarch’s words about “troublesome” children who are born by “a non-church way” tend to “stigmatize” and violate fundamental human rights. People’s Defender of Georgia openly criticized Patriarch for breaking children’s rights, while the Minister of Health diplomatically stated that “experts who prepared the Christmas sermon appeared to be non-professional and put it across Patriarch.”

Representatives of the Patriarchy emphasized that the head of GOC didn’t go back on his word, but rejected any accusations of “stigmatization of non-church born children”: “Many of them are baptized and blessed by Church, but the families where they are raised, their legal parents do wrong.”