December 8, 2015
The Georgian Orthodox Church offered on Sunday night some clarification about a recent statement by Patriarch Ilia II that has caused some confusion and debate.
After attending a theater performance by female prisoners on Saturday, the primate stated, “The Patriarch should have the right to pardon inmates and probably the authorities will raise this issue,” saying it was discussed with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili who attended the same performance, reports Civil.ge.
Such a granting of power would require a constitutional amendment with the support of at last 113 of the 150 members of Parliament. Currently the constitution grants the privilege of pardoning to the president alone.
PM Garibashvili released a written statement asking the president and parliament to consider the move, stating: “Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II is the spiritual leader of the Georgian nation and his advice is important and valuable for every person … Therefore, based on the request of the Patriarch, the head of the government appeals the President and the Parliament with a request to launch discussions on this issue.”
The Patriarch’s statement found the approval of most cabinet members, including Ruling Georgian Dream coalition lawmaker Eka Beselia who chairs parliamentary committee for human rights. “If there is a political agreement, I am sure that this [proposal] to grant this right to the Georgian Patriarch at a legislative level will have many supporters,” she said.
However, the proposal also caused concern among other lawmakers and activist groups who warned about the threat of “theocracy.”
As Interfax-Religion reports, Georgian Parliament Speaker David Usupashvili stated that the Patriarch’s request must be some misunderstanding, as such a move is without precedent. “Pardon as exemption from punishment is a prerogative of the president," Usupashvili said.
Civil.ge reports that in a written statement released on Sunday night the Georgian patriarchate clarified that the Patriarch’s statement was made immediately following the stunning performance which had been very emotional as the first ever such performance by inmates.
“It was against this very background that His Holiness said it would be better if the Patriarch too had the right to grant pardon to prisoners,” reads the statement.
“It was an idea voiced with the desire for solidarity, support and compassion towards them [inmates] and not as a demand to discuss this proposal at a legislative level,” the Patriarchate said.