Malkhaz Songulashvili – Tales of Canterbury – 5 – Unpleasant Surprises (UPDATE)

Orthodox delegates at Canterburry
Orthodox delegates, with Russian Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, at Canterburry
(Rev. Patrick Irwin, Priest of the Anglican Church in Bucharest is also in this picture)

I loved every minute I spent in the crypt but it would be dishonest of me if I do not tell you of a couple of rather unpleasant experiences as well. They did not necessarily cast any shadow over the atmosphere in the crypt, but reminded me that we still live in the world which is divided and politicised.

This is the first nasty tale of my time in the crypt. The Russian delegation arrived in the crypt a little bit late. By that time I was already robed and ready for the procession. The Russian delegation was led by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev whom I had known from my early visit to Oxford in 1990s. He was a doctoral student and we ate together at Tamara Grdzelidze’s place who was also a doctoral student from Georgia. Both Tamara and Hilarion were Metropolitan Kallistos’s students. Since that time Hilarion has became a leading hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and I had became the Archbishop of the Georgia EBC.

Our relationship had changed. The Russian invasion of Georgia made us political enemies. Hilarion had avoided contact and talks with me at every European ecumenical gathering. Despite this I decided to go and greet him as warmly as I could. Now in the presence of all the clergy from the rest of world I was embarrassed by him. I greeted him in Russian and Georgian (he knows some Georgian) and gave him a fraternal embrace. He stood back with an ossified face. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Tales of Canterbury – 5 – Unpleasant Surprises (UPDATE)”