"Heavenly man and earthly angel" of modern Georgia

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4
Jan

Happy birthday!

The Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia (Elijah) II of Georgia turns 89 today. The spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church is a noted individual in the clerical communities worldwide as a person with conservative values and liberal approaches towards controversial issues. Respected by many religious leaders of different confessions, His grace serves his own country and the rest of the world with undying patience and endless love, frequently as a peacemaker during war conflicts.

 

Elijah II of Georgia through years. Credit to Radio Tavisupleba
Elijah II of Georgia through the years. Credit: Radio Tavisupleba

 

Elijah II is an Honorary Academician of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the American School of Genealogy, Heraldry and Documentary Sciences. The Catholicos-Patriarch has received the highest Church awards from the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches of almost all other Orthodox Churches, including Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, to name a few.

 

Elijah II congratulates Georgia on the New 2021 Year. Credit to Paraleli
Elijah II congratulates Georgia on the New 2021 Year. Credit: Paraleli

 

As a productive theologian and church historian, His Grace was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Theology from Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, NY, in 1986, the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) in 1997, and the Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA, in 1998.

 

Pope Francis I visiting Elijah II of Georgia. Credit to ON Georgia
Pope Francis I visiting Elijah II of Georgia. Credit: ON Georgia

 

For many years it was little known about the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to be an outstanding artist and composer, two impressive talents he kept out of public reach until later in his lifetime. On 24 December 2019, Pope Francis I sent an official invitation to the Vatican where he highly praised the clerical compositions of Elijah II and wished to be able to arrange a special Roman Catholic and Georgian Orthodox joint concert.

 

Elijah II of Georgia. Credit to Georgian Public Broadcaster
Elijah II of Georgia. Credit: Georgian Public Broadcaster

 

On 7 October 2007, His Grace openly declared the constitutional monarchy as a form of government for Georgia in the future when he held a sermon for consideration of the possibility. The call followed the confrontation between the government and the opposition the same year. Georgian history of the monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty started in 1008 when Bagrat III became the first king of the Kingdom of Georgia. This Georgian Royal House ruled the Kingdom until the early 19th century when the Russian Empire invaded the Georgian Kingdom, finding a convenient moment when King George XII passed away. Eventually, all surviving members of the Bagrationi Royal Family have been forcefully relocated to different parts of the Russian Empire, and Georgia was divided into western and eastern provinces under the rule of Russian Emperors until 1917 when the First Democratic Republic of Georgia was established.

 

Elijah II welcomes the Iranian religious leaders at his residency, in May 2016 (L). Kelly Degnan, Ambassador of the US in Georgia, visiting Elijah II of Georgia (R). Credit to News Portal/Imedi TV/Info Postalioni/BRAMS
Elijah II welcomes the Iranian religious leaders at his residency, in May 2016 (L). Kelly Degnan, Ambassador of the US in Georgia, visiting Elijah II of Georgia (R). Credit: News Portal/Imedi TV/Info Postalioni/BRAMS

 

The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia initiated marriage between the genealogically senior royal line represented by Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani with the Bagration-Gruzinsky branch represented by Princess Anna. In 2013, their son Prince George was baptised by Elijah II who styled his royal godson as Prince of Georgia in a ceremony attended by the Synod in full. As a strong supporter of the restoration of the House of Bagration, Elijah II of Georgia received the Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia (OEG) from Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani.

 

Elijah II of Georgia baptising one of his godchildren (L). Elijah II of Georgia gives an example to take care of our planet and its nature (R). Credit to News Day Georgia/Shin Georgia/BRAMS
Elijah II of Georgia baptising one of his godchildren (L). Elijah II of Georgia gives an example to take care of our planet and its nature (R). Credit: News Day Georgia/Shin Georgia/BRAMS

 

Kyrie Eleison, composed by Elijah II of Georgia