The power of Patriarch Illia II

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Ilia II is the current spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He was elected the new Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977. At that time, Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, and the Georgian Orthodox Church was suppressed by Soviet ideology. Even before Georgia gained its independence, Ilia II began a course of reforms, which enabled the Church to regain its former influence and prestige.

At the end of 2007, Georgia had one of the lowest birth rates in the world. In a move to reverse the country’s dwindling birth figures, Patriarch Ilia II came up with an incentive. He promised to personally baptize any baby born to parents of more than two children. The result was a national baby boom because being baptized by the Patriarch is a considerable honor among adherents of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

Sameba Cathedral is the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church and it is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. In May 1989, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the authorities of Tbilisi announced an international contest to design a new cathedral in order to commemorate 1,500 years the Georgian Orthodox and 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus. After a winner was selected, six years of civil unrest delayed construction. The foundation for the new cathedral was finally laid on November 23, 1995, St. George’s day. Patriarch Illia II consecrated the cathedral nine years later, also on St. George’s day.

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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