Source: Vestnik Kavkaza
October 13, 2015
The Azerbaijan State Oil Company SOCAR has taken on a free long-term commitment to supply natural gas to all the churches and monasteries located on the territory of Georgia. The decision is very important, because many of the monasteries and churches are located in the highlands, where not only in winter, but even in spring and autumn, and sometimes in the summer (for example, in the foothills of the Caucasus mountain range) it is extremely cold. Monks and priests had to hold services warming up with firewood.
However, after SOCAR managed to deliver the blue fuel to almost all the regions of the country, another problem appeared – natural gas is expensive. Despite generous funding of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) from the state budget, the Patriarchate of the GOC could barely pay for fuel. Especially since the warming of a church is more difficult and expensive than of an apartment – the heat losses are huge.
Of course, the parishioners did not stop going to church because it's cold there, but the priests had to live in very difficult conditions. And we are talking about hundreds of churches and monasteries across the country.
That is why the decision of SOCAR was received with great gratitude. On behalf of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, his personal secretary, Mikael Botkoveli, spoke about this to Vestnik Kavkaza: "In accordance with the agreement, which we have signed with the Azerbaijani company, it will pay for the natural gas, consumed by all churches and monasteries located on the territory of the country." Father Mikael stressed that SOCAR made a similar decision in respect of all the other confessions operating in Georgia: "Azerbaijan helps not only the Orthodox Church, but all other confessions, even the Armenian Church."
According to the Secretary of the Patriarch, SOCAR took such an initiative two years ago, but the scale and significance of this decision became obvious in the process of expanding the gas pipeline network in Georgia and possible deliveries of natural fuel to almost all areas. "It's a huge help to the Georgian Orthodox Church, a great bliss, because we are not able to pay the cost of consumed gas," the priest admitted. "If it weren't for SOCAR, it would be impossible to warm our churches and monasteries."
Mikael Botkoveli informed that the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church met with the leadership of SOCAR and representatives of the Azerbaijani company in Tbilisi on several occasions. "As a result, we annually renew the agreement. The Patriarchate of Georgia sincerely thanks SOCAR president Rovnag Abdullayev and CEO of SOCAR Energy Georgia Mahir Mammedov for such great support," Father Mikael said.
According to the data of Vestnik Kavkaza, SOCAR reached a similar agreement on free aid with representatives of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Georgia, the Muslim community, Catholics and followers of Judaism. The Azerbaijani company warms all Catholic churches, mosques and synagogues for free, not only in Tbilisi, but in all regions to where the "blue fuel" is being delivered.