Joint Commission to Study Armenian-Georgian Church Row

Tbilisi, Georgia - Armenian and Georgian sides have agreed to set up a joint commission to study historic background of those churches in Georgia, which are disputed by the Georgian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches.

An agreement was reached during the meeting of visiting Armenian Parliamentary Chairman Artur Bagdasarian with Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II in Tbilisi on April 29.

Armenian Apostolic Church claims ownership over 9 churches in Georgia, which are currently under the Georgian Orthodox Church’s control. Moreover, the Armenian side accused the Georgian Orthodox Church of “appropriation of the Armenian spiritual heritage” by replacing Armenian tombstones with faked ones with the Georgian script on them in the yards of the Armenian churches.

The Georgian Orthodox Church also puts similar claims forward. “We have complains as well, for example, in respect of the Georgian churches located in Javakheti [region in southern Georgia, which is predominately populated by the ethnic Armenians],” Zurab Tskhovrebadze, an official representative of the Georgian Orthodox Church, told Civil Georgia on April 30. He added that the joint commission will consider all of these disputed issues.

According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenian service, this issue was pushed forwards by the Armenian authorities during the visit of Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli in Yerevan in March. But Nogaideli said after talks with the Armenian officials that the sides agreed to let the two churches try to solve the problems before deciding whether they should intervene.