TBILISI, Georgia, Nov. 14 — When Georgia’s short democratic experiment seemed near collapse last week amid a commotion of flying tear gas canisters, rocks and rubber bullets, the nation’s leaders, their opponents, and the Georgian people looked to Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church.
The patriarch addressed the nation on television, calling for an end to the violence and opening the churches as a refuge. And when the violence subsided, he offered his services as mediator between the government and the opposition.
“If there is anything in this country that can be a guarantor of security, it is the patriarch,” Tina Khidasheli, of the opposition Republican Party, said in an interview days after a government-imposed state of emergency shut down independent media and curtailed political rights. “No one else has any authority anymore.”
As leader of a near 2,000-year-old religious tradition, the patriarch has been a unifying force through 30 years of political turmoil, poverty and war, even as one revolution after another, peaceful or otherwise, has toppled the nation’s political leaders.Read the rest here.