Tolerance and Diversity Institute

TDI on Acknowledgement of Anti-Semitism by the Metropolitan

Today, on 8 January, the Public Relations Service of the Patriarchate, as well as the Kutaisi-Gaenati Eparchy, published the statement of Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli about the anti-Semitic sermon of the Orthodox clergy.

The statement reads, that Archpriest Ilia Karkadze's sermon of January 4, "represents completely groundless accusations against the Jewish people or its individual representatives. It is not based on the teachings of the Church and is inspired with the anti-Semitic pathos". As the Metropolitan notes, Archpriest Karkadze received a warning and he is sorry for what he has said.

The published statement does not express regrets on the Metropolitan Ioane's anti-Semitic sermon of December 20, and he again refers to it as "a campaign accusing him of anti-Semitism".

We welcome the critical assessment of the anti-Semitic statements of Archpriest Ilia Karkadze by the Church and consider it as the first step forward. However, this response is insufficient to address the problem of anti-Semitism and intolerance within the Church. It was the December 20 sermon of Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli that created a ground for a new wave of anti-Semitism, which was followed by the statements of Archpriest Ilia Karkadze. Therefore, it is important from the side of Metropolitan to assess the problematic nature of his own sermon and to apologize for the anti-Semitic rhetoric.

At the same time, we once again call on the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, to clearly express its position and offer a critical assessment of the statements by Metropolitan Ioane and Archpriest Ilia. 

The Patriarchate and the representatives of the government must condemn antisemitism and hate speech against Jews and human rights defenders and issue statements that support tolerance, respect for human rights, and condemn discrimination.

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For the background, on December 20, 2020, Bishop Ioane Gamrekeli of Kutaisi-Gaenati Diocese of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the head of the Education Center of the Patriarchate of Georgia, made anti-Semitic statements during his sermon; Later, during the sermon delivered in defense of Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli, Archpriest Ilia Karkadze also made anti-Semitic statements.

On December 28, TDI published the statement regarding the issue and condemned the Church's anti-Semitism.

See the December 28 statement of TDI here.  

In response to TDI, on 1 January 2021, the Kutaisi-Gaenati Eparchy published the Metropolitan’s statement. The Metropolitan declared that the TDI tries to “upset a centuries-long cordial relationship between the Church of Georgia and the Jewish people.”

See the January 5 statement of TDI here: Anti-Semitism of the Church - Summary and Assessment of Events.   

Diplomats and representatives of the Jewish community made comments on a public discussion that broke out about the issue. The assessment of the issue by the current Ambassador of Georgia to Israel, Lasha Zhvania, is alarming. On 29 December, on his official Facebook page, the Ambassador said that branding the sermon of the Metropolitan of Kutaisi-Gaenati as anti-Semitism was an attempt to defame the Metropolitan and the Church.

On 4 January, in his special statement, the Ambassador of Israel to Georgia, Ran Gidor, noted that the sermon of the Metropolitan “might have lent itself to various interpretations - some of them of particular concern.”

On 3 January, the Jewish organization, Israeli House, issued a statement concerning the sermon of Ioane Gamrekeli, noting that the Metropolitan’s sermon is “a manifestation of anti-Semitism, an attempt to kindle disagreement and encourage several radical groups.”