One of my first weeks in Korbouli I had the day where I and most of my village waited for the Patriarch. It ended up being kind of a downer and shaped some of my initial opinions of this Patriarch man.
The Georgian Patriach, Ilia the Second, is what the Pope is to Roman Catholics. Not being a Catholic, that’s that much less of an understanding I have for the Georgian’s relationship with their Patriarch. I think it’s all a little creepy. That’s the Protestant in me speaking, I know.
I admit to being highly suspicious of religious leaders. And not just of popes and patriarchs, my skepticism extends down the church hierarchy. I’m not a big fan of deacons either. Or elders. In fact I seem to suspect almost anyone in a position of authority. (Could it have something to do with the fact that most of them are men?)
I’ve kept an eye on this Ilia Meore after the initial disappointment of my village. He’s on TV regularly. His territory is of such a size that he seems able to get around quite a bit. The poor Pope just cannot compete. The Patriarch baptizes babies; he visits schools; he blesses hats (really!), he leads special services. He’s a busy man. And the people adore him. I’m positive that his public approval rating far exceeds that of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President.
So I believe my opinion of the Patriarch has softened a bit. It was inevitable. Of course he can’t stop at every village he drives through. Though maybe he could at least have slowed down.
I found a very interesting CNN clip on YouTube about the Patriarch that gave me some additional perspective.
Have a look: