Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia turns 83 – The path of His Holiness Illia II
04 January, 2016
Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia turns 83 – The path of His Holiness Illia II
Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia, His Holiness Ilia the Second turned 83 on January 4.
Ilia II was born as Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili in Vladikavkaz. His descendants had family ties with the former royal dynasty of the Bagrationi.

He graduated from the Moscow clerical seminary and was ordained a hierodeacon in 1957 and hieromonk in 1959; he graduated from the Moscow clerical academy in 1960 and returned to Georgia, where he was assigned to the Batumi Cathedral Church as a priest. In 1961, he was promoted to hegumen and later to archimandrite. On August 26, 1963, he was chosen to be the bishop of Batumi and Shemokmedi and appointed a patriarchal vicar. From 1963 to 1972 he was also the first rector of the Mtskheta Theological Seminary - the only clerical school in Georgia at that time.

‘I wanted to be an ordinary person, just another human being. That was my dream. I loved nature and I was growing up in this beautiful environment. I loved animals too and I thought to become an agrarian or a livestock specialist. Sometimes I was also amazed by medicine. I was collecting recipes from ethno science. I grew up in a family of Russian language teacher and I spent summer in Stepantsminda’, Illia II says.

His holiness was baptized when he was three years old. His parents named him Irakli, in honor of a famous Georgian King. His parents were very religious. His father, Giorgi Gudushauri, got up with prayer early in the morning, while his children were still sleeping. In the evening, together they read 90th psalm.

‘90th psalm is a very powerful one. It is against all the visible and invisible enemies. We had to know it by heart. My father read the prayers aloud and when he finished, he would sprinkle holy water at us. Then, we would go to bed and he would go on with the prayer. On weekends, we would go to church and that is why my mother would prepare food beforehand, on Saturdays.

When I entered the school of theology I wanted to have a family of my own and I also wanted to be a priest in a very small Georgian village. I dreamed of working like other people do. In the School of Theology, we, the students, had one tradition. Every morning we went to the Chruch of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh and prayed, receiving blessings and
I think, that had a very big influence on me when choosing my life’s path,’ the Patriarch recalls.

In 1967, he was consecrated as the bishop of Tskhumi and Abkhazeti and elevated to the rank of metropolitan in 1969. After the death of the controversial Patriarch David V, he was elected the new Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977. He began a course of reforms, enabling the Georgian Orthodox Church, once suppressed by the Soviet ideology, to largely regain its former influence and prestige by the late 1980s. In 1988 there were 180 priests, 40 monks, and 15 nuns for the faithful, who were variously estimated as being from one to three million. There were 200 churches, one seminary, three convents, and four monasteries. During the last years of the Soviet Union, he was actively involved in Georgia's social life. He joined the people demonstrating in Tbilisi against the Soviet rule on April 9, 1989, and fruitlessly urged the protesters to withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church to avoid bloodshed. This peaceful demonstration was dispersed by Soviet troops, leaving behind 22 dead and hundreds injured. During the civil war in Georgia in the 1990s, he called on the rival parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

From 1978 to 1983, Ilia II was Co-President of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organization the Georgian Orthodox Church had joined with other Soviet churches in 1962. In May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church announced its withdrawal from the WCC.

‘I will always cherish that invisible and yet visible throne on which I was led up by the powerful hand of the almighty. The duties I was imposed with an endless mercy are ineffaceably written on my heart,’ these are the words his Holiness, the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II said during the anniversary of his enthronement.

For the last 35 years, due to his efforts, the number of Georgian church eparchies increased from 15 to 39. Some tens of churches and monasteries were built, new saints were canonized and the biggest church of Georgia, St. Trinity Temple was built.

Related Story:

Georgia celebrates the 38-th anniversary of Patriarch’s enthronement

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