Apart of the Georgian Orthodox Church, funding from the state budget will also become available for four more religious groups in Georgia – Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, Muslim groups, Roman Catholic Church in Georgia and Jewish groups, PM Irakli Garibashvili said.
He made the announcement at a government session on January 27, saying that these four religious groups will become eligible to state funding in a form of “compensation” for “repressions” experienced by these groups during the Soviet times. Details of funding scheme are not yet clear.
“I want to respond to speculation that continues and we hear in media as if conflicts on religious grounds became frequent – I want to state unequivocally that it is not true. On the contrary we only have improvements in this regard and we really have equal respect to various religious groups. In testament to this we are today discussing a proposal on funding of four religious groups from the state budget because these religions were repressed during the Soviet times,” PM Garibashvili said.
“Funding will be allocated from the state budget and proportionally distributed among these [four] religious groups in order to provide state compensation, because these religions were repressed during the Soviet times,” Garibashvili said. “It is unprecedented not only in our region, but in Europe. Religious groups usually do not get funding from the state budget, but because we really have a fair reason for that… This is a very useful and necessary decision, which will further contribute to the unity and integration within the society.”
PM Garibashvili also said that funding for Lutherans would be considered at the “next stage”.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who attended an event in Tbilisi marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, said when asked about the PM’s announcement that he is not yet aware of details of the proposal.
“I am not aware about the principle of selection [of the religious groups which will get funding]. At the same time, the President is a guarantor of constitutional agreement between [the state] and the Georgian Orthodox Church and naturally these issues are important for me and I am interested in them. I will familiarize myself with this proposal and let you know my opinion,” President Margvelashvili told journalists.
The Georgian Orthodox Church, which enjoys with special status and important privileges under the 2002 constitutional agreement with the state, is the only religious group in the country with a line item in the state budget. 2014 state budget envisages GEL 25 million for the Georgian Orthodox Church. According to estimations by the Transparency International Georgia, the Orthodox Church received up to GEL 200 million from the state in a period between 2002 and 2013.