Georgian Patriarch Ilia II has named metropolitan Shio Mujiri as incumbent of the patriarchal throne. Mujiri will take over the Church in the event that Ilia II becomes ill or dies, until a new patriarch is elected.
The Patriarch made the announcement during a 23 November sermon at Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, during the feast of Saint George.
This does not guarantee Mujiri as Ilia II’s successor, but he will head the Church in the event the patriarch becomes unable to perform his duties, until a new patriarch is elected.
According to the Church’s rules, the incumbent must call a broad gathering of the Church to elect a new patriarch between 40 days and two months of the patriarch’s throne becoming vacant.
Prior to the gathering, candidates are selected by the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Church made up of the most senior bishops. The Synod is chaired by either the patriarch or his incumbent.
Georgian news site Tabula has suggested that Mujiri could begin chairing the Synod while Ilia II is still alive, ‘given his age and health condition’.
‘Naming metropolitan Mujiri makes him a candidate at the least, and may guarantee him the throne, Tabula suggested.
They say that the patriarch’s decision to name the incumbent while he is still alive was unexpected but understandable, suggesting that leaving testament would lead to speculation and questioning of the incumbent's legitimacy.
What we know about the incumbent
The head of Senaki and Chkhorotsku Eparchy, 49-year-old Shio Mujiri is one among three Suffragan Bishops of Patriarch Ilia II.
According to the Georgian Patriarchate, he became a monk in 1993 working his way up the Church’s hierarchy ever since.
He graduated from a theological seminary in Batumi and continued his education at the Moscow Theological Academy.
Mujiri is said to be a friend of Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and prominent businessmen Levan Vasadze, netgazeti suggests.
‘In 2013, metropolitan Shio became a supervisory board member of the Demographic Revival Fund, an organisation backed by the government’, Netgazeti writes.
Vasadze, a Georgian Businessmen well known for his conservative attitudes, sits with Mujiri on the supervisory board. In 2016, Vasadze hosted the four-day long World Congress of Families, which was attended by a number of American, Georgian, and Russian conservative figures.
The congress coincided with International Day Against Homophobia, which has been celebrated as Family Purity Day by the Georgian Orthodox Church since 2014.