The head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, planned to step down in 2020 for unknown reasons, files allegedly leaked from the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG) show.
This is the latest report from around 3,000 files allegedly leaked from the SSG on 12 September, many of which involve senior clergy from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
[Read more on OC Media: Leaked ‘kompromat’ against the clergy rocks Georgia]
According to the alleged surveillance files, Dimitri Shiolashvili, Patriarch’s nephew and the Head of Batumi and Lazeti Eparchy, ‘spoke strictly’ with Ilia II and dissuaded him from resigning.
Following the change of heart, Ilia II’s planned meeting with the Holy Synod, the Church’s highest ruling body, was cancelled.
Patriarch’s aid Davit Chincharauli, on his part, allegedly said during the conversation with Shiolashvili that those in power (‘up there’) had learnt about Ilia II’s intention and were strongly against his resignation.
The alleged report of a security officer eavesdropping on the conversation between the two suggests that the authorities had told the Patriarch’s administration that they deemed Ilia II’s resignation ‘inadmissible’.
The authorities were reportedly worried that it would reflect badly on the ‘public mood as well as ratings of the government’.
The leaked documents point to Anzor Chubinidze, a confidant of Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, following the situation and contacting Ilia II’s personal security detail to learn more about the crisis in the Church.
Chubinidze has headed the Special State Protection Service since 2015.
Ivanishvili keeping an eye on potential successors
Dimitri Shiolashvili, whose phone conversations were evidently wiretapped last year, has remained silent over the scandalous revelations involving him and the Church generally.
Pirveli and Formula, the Georgian TV channels that reported the leaked dossier on the matter on 15 September, said that the secret files did not pinpoint the reasons for Ilia II’s intention to resign.
[Read more on OC Media: Church scandals have hurt trust in the Georgian Orthodox Church]
According to Pirveli, the files contain a number of records of phone communications between members of the Holy Synod that discussed the Patriarch’s anticipated resignation.
In one such report, the influential Archbishop Iakob Iakobashvili allegedly claims to have previously helped convince Ilia II to ‘change his mind’, and that he planned to do the same ‘this time around too’.
Georgian TV channel Formula also reported on 15 September that according to the leaked files from 2020, Ivanishvili was eager to find out who had ambitions to succeed Ilia II.