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Georgian Patriarch's Surrogacy Remarks Spark Protests, Clashes

Georgian Patriarch Ilia II leading a midnight Christmas service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi on January 7.
TBILISI -- Picketers and government ministers have protested a statement by Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II suggesting children born by surrogate mothers or through artificial insemination will be "problematic" in their adulthood.

The resulting debate has also sparked skirmishes between supporters and detractors of the patriarch.

The assertion came in Ilia's Christmas address to the nation on January 7.

He also said families with such children cannot be happy.

The statement has been condemned by a number of Georgian intellectuals and politicians, including Health and Social Protection Minister Davit Sergeenko, Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, and an aide to the prime minister, Tamar Chugoshvili, who said all children have the right to life and happiness.

On January 8, dozens of protesters representing nongovernmental rights groups picketed the patriarch's office in Tbilisi.

Dozens of the patriarch's supporters also came to the site, where the two opposing groups clashed.

Police stopped the violence.

No serious injuries were reported.