His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, received official notification from the Orthodox Church in Georgia, that His Holiness, ILIA II, Catholicos and Patriarch of the All Georgia, has accepted his invitation to visit the United States, arriving here May 14. Patriarch ILIA will be the official guest of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS.
Born Erekle Gudushauri Shiolashvili in 1933, he was tonsured a monk in 1957, and ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1957 and 1959 respectively. A graduate of the Moscow Theological Academy, he was consecrated Bishop of Batum-Shemokemedi on August 25, 1963. Upon the death of Patriarch DAVID V, he was elected Catholicos-Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Georgia on December 25, 1977.
At the beginning of Patriarch ILIAs visit to America, he will meet with the Supreme Catholicos of all Amenians, His Holiness, KAREKIN, who is also making an archpastoral visit to the Armenian Church in U.S. during the month of May. The two heads of Churches have already exchanged official visits to Georgia and Armenia. On May 15 they will be the guests of honor at a luncheon hosted by His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS.
During his visit to America, Patriarch ILIA has plans to meet with Orthodox Church leaders and government officials in Washington, at the U.S. State Department, Library of Congress and Georgian Embassy. In New York he will join the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary, Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko and the entire faculty on May 16 for commencement exercises. He will also be received by His Eminence, Archbishop SPYRIDON at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and by the Rev Dr Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ. Patriarch ILIA is well acquainted with the challenges of ecumenical relations, having served in the past as President of the World Council of Churches. While in New York he will speak at Georgian Independence Day observances at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University on May 19.
At the invitation of His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSUS, Patriarch ILIA will preside at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas Cathedral in Washington on May 17. His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN will welcome the Catholicos to St Tikhon’s Monastery/Seminary on May 23, where he will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from St Tikhon’s Seminary and preside over the Memorial Day Pilgrimage on Monday, May 25.
This will be a working visit, according to Fr Gregory Havrilak, OCA Director of Communications. Through our office the Catholicos has already made arrangements to meet with the Committee on Human Rights at the State Department in Washington, and with the Secretary General of the United Nations. The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, which will convene at St Tikhon’s Monastery, has invited the Georgian Primate to participate in their discussions.
Accompanying the Catholicos on this official visit will be His Eminence, Metropolitan CALISTRATE of Kutaisi and Gaenati, Rector of the Gelati Theological Academy, His Eminence, Archbishop DANIEL of Tskhum-Abkhaseti, Chairman of the Department for Mission and Evangelization, Archpriest George Zviadadze, Deputy Rector of Tbilisi Theological Academy, Protodeacon David Davitashvili, and Mr Ilia Vacheishvili, Interpreter.
Patriarch ILIA visited North America in 1986 as a guest of the Orthodox Church in America. During that visit he was awarded an honorary doctorate by St Vladimir’s Seminary. His degree citation reads: Dedicated to the spiritual revival of the Georgian people, he presided over the consecration of many bishops, expanded the program of theological education, initiated publications, and gained the respect and admiration of many.
As the Primate of the Georgian Church he presided over his flock during the demise of the former Soviet Union in the Caucasus. This new-found freedom liberated the Georgian Church to rebuild monasteries, Churches and schools, and to publicly conduct their on-going ministry with impunity. Patriarch ILIA is credited by religious leaders around the world for spearheading this renewal on Church life in his country.