Georgia: A Land to Discover

“Here in Georgia, as in the whole of the Soviet Union, we have lived without God for over seventy years. Churches were closed and it was even dangerous to admit to being a believer.” Fr. Zurab Kakachishvili, Valẽ, Georgia Georgians belong to one of the oldest nations in Christendom. The beginnings of Christianity in Georgia go back to the first century, when the first apostles including the apostles Andrew, Bartholomew and Matthew set up the first Christian communities. Legend holds that the Virgin Mary was assigned to proclaim the Good News in Georgia. As in many of the countries overshadowed by the Ottoman Empire, interspersed by only a few brief moments in history, Christians were unable to enjoy full freedom of belief. The height of persecution came in 1921 when the Red Army invaded the country in, unleashed a bloody terror, and incorporated Georgia into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Church suffered immense losses at the time, in human terms – through imprisonment, deportations and executions – as well as materially, following the confiscation, destruction, and blowing up of Church property. Official Church practice in effect became impossible. In 1991, a newly independent Georgia emerged battered from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Once an affluent part of the USSR, the deteriorating relations between Georgia and Russia soon resulted in the disintegration of the Georgian economy. This economic collapse was mirrored by a moral collapse. Before the communist period, Georgia numbered 90,000 to 100,000 Catholics. But after 70 years of an atheist Soviet system, Catholics today number only about 50,000. Today there is only one Georgian priest the others are Poles and Italians who are translating the Roman liturgy into the Georgian language. These Priests do their utmost to strengthen Georgian Catholics in their faith. Priests, nuns and Catholic volunteers work in Georgia on many levels, spiritual as well as charitable. The fact however remains that this is but a drop in the ocean of needs.

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