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Symbol of peace and wisdom: Georgia’s Patriarch turns 84
04 January, 2017
January 4th is the birthday of Georgians’ spiritual leader, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, his Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II. Today, he turned 84 years old.

Ilia II was born Irakli Shiolashvili, in 1933, in the Russian (then-Soviet) town of Vladikavkaz, into the highly religious family of Giorgi Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili and Natalia Kobaidze. In 1952 he graduated from the local school No.22 and moved to Moscow where he enrolled into the local Ecclesiastical Seminary.

“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.

On April 16, 1957, 23-year-old Irakli Shiolashvili, by the blessing from the then Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Melkisedek III, took the monastic vows at the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Tbilisi and was given the name Ilia. In 1960 he graduated from the Moscow Ecclesiastical Seminary with the first grade diploma.

“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

On August 26 of 1963, by the blessing from the Catholicos-Patriarch Efrem II, was appointed as a Bishop of Batumi-Shemokmedi Eparchy and in 1967 he was moved to the Tskhum-Apkhazeti Eparchy. Two years later he was promoted to the rank of Metropolitam. Ilia II lived in Sukhumi for 11 years.

When the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia David V passed away, on December 23 of 1977, the Holy Synod of Georgian Orthodox Church elected Ilia as the next spiritual leader, giving him the title Ilia II. His enthronement took place two days later, on December 25, 1977.

“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.

Georgian Patriarch is equally revered by Orthodox world as well as the representatives of other religions. He is considered a symbol of peace and wisdom.

By the time Ilia II was elected, 15 eparchies and a little more than 30 churches existed in Georgia. Today, due to his efforts, there are 47 eparchies and the number of churches and monasteries has increased significantly, as well as that of clerics and monks. Today, there are close to 2000 churches in Georgia and close to 3 thousand clerics, monks and nuns.   

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Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia turns 83 – The path of His Holiness Illia II

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