Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 5. In Search of Freedom

An Orthodox priest between police and protesters in Kiev

I was observing this milieu in amazement, thinking to myself that these people definitely deserve to be free and to live in the European environment.

What has been happening over the past three months or so in the capital city of Ukraine is a clear expression of the will of the freedom-loving Ukrainian people. The Ukrainian people wish to link their fate not only to the European Union and the West, but also to those values which Western civilization is built upon.

Every civilization has its positive and negative sides, and the West is no exception. The virtue of the West is that human beings and the universe they live in are considered the most important phenomena. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 5. In Search of Freedom”

Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze – 2014 International Women of Courage Award Winner

Bishop Rusudan at her ordination by Archbishop Malkhaz

Two days ago my friend the Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili was announcing me, confidentially, that soon, his colleague, and our common friend Bishop Rudusan Gotsiridze will receive at the State Department, in Washington the 2014 International Women of Courage Award, together with a number of other remarkable women.

Congratulations, Bishop Rusudan!

Here is the official announcement, for the ceremony that took place today: Continue reading “Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze – 2014 International Women of Courage Award Winner”

Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 4. A Meeting with the Synodals

Ukrainian Orthodox priest on the Maidan

I will now go back to my visit to Kiev this January: the Synod ended and the bishops of Synod (the Ukrainian Synod comprises 10 bishops out of a total 30) went out of the room. The Patriarch met me with the same warmth as before, but it was easy to discern that he was worried. On that day, government forces had killed three demonstrators and used tear-gas against the protestors. Among the injured in Kiev’s central square, the Maidan, was a Crimean bishop who, along with us, was also waiting for the end of the Synod.

Both Synodals (that’s how the bishops in the synod are called) and those who were waiting in the lobby were hungry, so we moved straight to a dining hall. A modest but delicious dinner awaited us there: hot borscht, fish and fruit. The Patriarch blessed the food and we sat at the table. The dinner of the Patriarch was quite a scene. Once we sat at the table, the bishops and metropolitans immediately took out their iPads and iPhones – all of them were rushing to learn about what was happening on the barricades. One after another, they read out the news while having dinner. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 4. A Meeting with the Synodals”

Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 3. An Historical Excursus

Vladimir the Great, the grand prince of Kiev

Today, the Kiev Patriarchate is in a similar state as the Georgian Orthodox Church was in the period between 1917 and 1943, before Joseph Stalin came to its defense and forced the Russian Church to recognize its autocephaly. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church had no such defender to help restore its autocephaly. The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, tried to defend it and turned to the Patriarchate of Constantinople for help. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople subsequently arrived in Kiev and was ready to conduct negotiations with the Kiev Patriarchate, but the Kremlin got involved and, by means of the Turkish government, dissuaded the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose residence is located in Istanbul, from assisting the Kiev Patriarchate.

For almost 20 years now, the Moscow Patriarchate has successfully blocked the foreign relations of the Kiev Patriarchate. It wants the Kiev Patriarchate to be isolated from any Orthodox Christian Church and from the Christian world in general. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 3. An Historical Excursus”

Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 2. Creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate

Patriarch Filaret of Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate

Patriarch Filaret is an exceptional person. I first met him during the Orange Revolution, together with Deacon Basil Kobakhidze and Father Zaza Tevzadze. We three arrived in Kiev to express our Christian solidarity with Ukraine’s religious communities, which each supported the revolution to a greater or lesser extent. The three of us were thus walking about Kiev’s streets, each sporting orange shawls around our necks. Father Zaza Tevsadze was holding a Georgian flag fixed to the top of a rod. Father Basil Kobakhidze was wearing his cap and any time he wanted to smoke, he folded up his vestment to hide it under his coat. I was wearing a black cape and sandals on bare feet. I am sure it was quite a scene, these three eccentric Georgians on the streets of Kiev. At times, all three of us got very cold. Father Zaza Tevzadze even turned blue from the cold, but he did not let go of the Georgian flag atop of the rod in his hand.

If memory serves me well, we were on our way to a meeting with Filaret when a passer-by asked in surprise: “Why is this Armenian priest holding a Georgian flag?” This provoked heavy laugher among us.

This year, Patriarch Filaret turned 85 years old and I scheduled my visit to Kiev to coincide with this anniversary. Before the recent revolution in Kiev started, the Church of Ukraine drew up a plan for holding large-scale festivities to mark the birthday of the Patriarch, but because of the ongoing revolution, Filaret cancelled all festive events and also refused to receive an award dedicated to the date from the country’s president. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 2. Creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate”

Malkhaz Songulashvili – Ukraine in Europe – 1. Russian Orthodox Imperialism

Ukraine in Europe

In January 2014, I was sitting in the lobby of the Patriarch of Kiev along with other bishops, waiting for the Synod to end so that I could meet with Patriarch Filaret. It was snowing and freezing outside and the revolution was well underway in the country!

It was 2011 when I last met Patriarch Filaret, I was accompanying a delegation of the Anglican Church on a visit to Kiev. The delegation included the Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jonathan Goodall, and a renowned Anglican canonist and expert of orthodox liturgy, Hugh Wybrew. The Patriarch was very pleased about our visit. He treated us well. He awarded me and the Rt Revd Stephen Platten with the Order of Saint Vladimir, whilst Jonathan Goodall and Hugh Wybrew received the Order of Saint George. He also gave Panagias to me and Stephen Platten. When handing a Panagia to me he turned to the other attendees and, with sparkling eyes, told them: “the Rt Revd Malkhaz Songulashvili is the Orthodox Baptist.” Back then, the Patriarch was in high spirits.

That visit to Kiev drove the Moscow Patriarchate mad. Letters of condemnation were immediately sent to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. One letter was written by Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, whilst another was authored by a British Orthodox Christian Metropolitan who falls under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Both metropolitans did not mince their words in criticizing the Church of England and its leader, rebuking the Archbishop for daring to send a delegation to Ukraine without first seeking the consent of the Patriarchate of Moscow. Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, sent the irritated metropolitans a stern response, doing so calmly, without emotion. After this incident, Bishop of Wakefield Stephen Platten continued his relations with the head of the Ukrainian Church as usual, as well as with his representative to Great Britain, Abbot Kirion Inasaridze.

(To be continued.)

Birth of Christ Celebrated by Muslims and Christians in Tbilisi, Georgia


On December 25th with an initiative of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia a historic event took place – Muslim clerics from all of Shia and Sunni traditions celebrated the birth of Jesus (Isa) the Christ  with Christians (Baptists and Orthodox) at the Baptist Centre. The culmination of the event was the exchange of gifts:  Muslim clerics gave copies of the Qur’an (Georgian translation)  to Christian Clergy and Christian clergy gave copies of the New Testament to Muslim clergy.
The celebration was led by Dr Malkhaz Songulashvili  (who had just been checked out from the hospital for  his heart condition) and Imam Zurab Tsetskhladze, the head of Georgian Muslim Union. Continue reading “Birth of Christ Celebrated by Muslims and Christians in Tbilisi, Georgia”