Ilia II (also transliterated as Ilya or Elijah; Georgian: ილია II) (born January 4, 1933) is the current Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He is officially styled as His Holiness and Beatitude, Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.
Ilia II was born as Irakli Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili (ირაკლი ღუდუშაური-შიოლაშვილი) in Vladikavkaz, Russia's North Ossetia. He is a descendant of the influential eastern Georgian mountainous clan with family ties with the former royal dynasty of the Bagrationi.
He graduated from the Moscow clerical seminary and was ordained a hierodeacon in 1957 and hieromonk in 1959; he graduated from the Moscow clerical academy in 1960 and returned to Georgia, where he was assigned to the Batumi Cathedral Church as a priest. In 1961, he was promoted to hegumen and later to archimandrite. On August 26, 1963, he was chosen to be the bishop of Batumi and Shemokmedi and appointed a patriarchal vicar. From 1963 to 1972 he was also the first rector of the Mtskheta Theological Seminary - the only clerical school in Georgia at that time.
In 1967, he was consecrated as the bishop of Tskhumi and Abkhazeti and elevated to the rank of metropolitan in 1969. After the death of the controversial Patriarch David V, he was elected the new Catholico-Patriarch of Georgia on December 25, 1977. He began a course of reforms, enabling the Georgian Orthodox Church, once suppressed by the Soviet ideology, largely regain its former influence and prestige by the late 1980s. In 1988 there were 180 priests, 40 monks, and 15 nuns for the faithful, who were variously estimated as being from one to three million. There were 200 churches, one seminary, three convents, and four monasteries. During the last years of the Soviet Union, he was actively involved in Georgia's social life. He joined the people demonstrating in Tbilisi against the Soviet rule on April 9, 1989, and fruitlessly urged the protesters to withdraw to the nearby Kashueti Church to avoid the bloodshed. This peaceful demonstration was dispersed by the Soviet troops, leaving behind 22 dead and hundreds injured. During the civil war in Georgia in the 1990s, he called the rival parties to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
From 1978 to 1983, Ilia II was Co-President of the World Council of Churches (WCC), an ecumenical organization the Georgian Orthodox Church had joined with other Soviet churches in 1962. In May 1997, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church announced its withdrawal from the WCC.
As patriarch, he has received the highest Church awards from the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and almost all other Orthodox Churches.
As a productive theologian and church historian, he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Theology from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York (1986), the Academy of Sciences in Crete (1997) and the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (1998).
Ilia II is an Honorary Academician of: the Georgian Academy of Sciences (2003) and the International Academy for the Promotion of Scientific Research (2007). In February 2008, his grace was awarded the David Guramishvili Prize
Ilia II is known as a proponent of a constitutional monarchy as a form of government for Georgia. On October 7, 2007, Ilia II he publicly called, in his sermon, to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy under the Bagrationi dynasty which had been dispossessed by the Russian Empire of the Georgian crown early in the 19th century. The statement coincided with the rising confrontation between the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili and the opposition many members of which welcomed the patriarch's proposal.
During the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Ilia II appealed to the Russian political leadership and the church, expressing concerns that “the Orthodox Russians were bombing Orthodox Georgians," and dismissing the Russian accusations of Georgia's “genocide” in South Ossetia as “pure lie”. He also made a pastoral visit, bringing food and aid, to the Russian-occupied central Georgian city of Gori and the surrounding villages which were at the verge of humanitarian catastrophe. He also helped retrieve bodies of deceased Georgian soldiers and civilians. Ilia II also blessed the September 1, 2008 “Stop Russia” demonstrations in which tens of thousands organized human chains across Georgia.
In December 2008, Ilia II visited Moscow to pay a final farewell to Russia's late Patriarch Alexy II. On December 9, 2008, he met Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, which was the first high-level official contact between the two countries since the August war. Later, Ilia II announced that he had some “positive agreements” with Medvedev which needed “careful and diplomatic” follow-up by the politicians.
Ilia II has spurred a baby boom in the nation by opting to personally baptize any third child born after his initiative started. The result was a national baby boom because being baptized by the head patriarch is a huge honor in Georgia.
- Georgian Church Calls for Constitutional Monarchy. Civil Georgia. 2007-10-07.
- Politicians Comment on Constitutional Monarchy Proposal. Civil Georgia. 2007-10-10.
- War splits Orthodox churches in Russia and Georgia. the International Herald Tribune. September 5, 2008
- Church Intervenes to Bring Soldiers’ Bodies Back. Civil Georgia. 2008-08-16
- Georgians in Mass ‘Live Chain’ Say ‘Stop Russia’. Civil Georgia. 2008-09-01
- Head of Georgian Church Meets Medvedev. Civil Georgia. 2008-09-01
- Head of Georgian Church Again Speaks of ‘Positive Agreements’ with Medvedev. Civil Georgia. 2008-12-16
|Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia