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Armenian Church Slams Georgian Patriarch For 'Inappropriate' Remarks

Catholicos Garegin II (left) and Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II meet in Tbilisi on June 11.
Catholicos Garegin II (left) and Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II meet in Tbilisi on June 11.
YEREVAN -- The Armenian Apostolic Church criticized the head of the Georgia Orthodox Church today for making "inappropriate" references to Armenian Church leader Catholicos Garegin II just days after he visited Georgia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Speaking in Tbilisi's St. Trinity Cathedral on June 19, Catholicos Patriarch Ilia II attributed the failure of the two church leaders to settle disputes between their churches in talks last week to the perceived young age of Garegin, who is 59.

"Garegin is young and apparently lacks experience," the 78-year-old head of the Georgian Orthodox Church reportedly said. "He is intelligent but wants to do things quickly, which will not work. I told him that I have 30 years of experience and that staying calm is the best thing."

Senior clerics at the Armenian Church's Mother See in Echmiadzin, a town 20 kilometers south of Yerevan, denounced the remarks.

"Considering the logic of the ethics of relations between church heads, it is inappropriate to make such statements," said Bishop Arshak Khachatrian, the Mother See chancellor.

The bitter exchange highlights lingering tensions between the two churches that center on the ownership of Christian worship sites located in Georgia and Armenia and the status of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia.

Garegin, who has headed the Armenian Church since 1999, hoped to ease tensions with his historic weeklong visit to Georgia that began on June 10 -- the first trip by the head of the Armenian Church to Georgia in nearly a century.

But despite high hopes and much fanfare, the two leaders failed to reach any concrete agreements in their talks.