Georgian Bishop Stresses Need to Fight Secularism

Says Churches Must Unite to Keep Religious Identity

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TBILISI, Georgia, MARCH 8, 2010 ( Georgia managed to keep its faith while under the Soviet regime, but now it risks losing its religious identity due to rising secularism and materialism, said the apostolic administrator of the Caucuses.

Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto stated this in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, published today.

He affirmed that ecumenism is the top priority for the Church in that region, and underlined the need for Catholics and Orthodox to work together in order to combat secularism.

«The Church’s primary mission is to work for ecumenism and understanding with the [Georgian] Orthodox Church,» the bishop stated.

He noted that secularism is increasing in part «due to the internet and the growth of communication technology.»

«It has begun to infiltrate people,» the prelate warned, «a bit like poison in their spirit — the poison of secularism and materialism.»

«I worry that young people won’t be able to resist the temptation,» he added.

The bishop recalled that Georgia embraced Christianity early on, in the 4th century, but he expressed concern that these values could be lost.

He affirmed: «Georgia is very conscious of the Christian heritage, as the Christian faith is in their hearts — the Christian faith is enrooted.

«Even if there was a difficult time because of the anomaly under the Soviet regime they stuck to their religion — they didn’t allow the Soviet regime to get the faith out of their hearts.»


Nonetheless, Bishop Pasotto told the aid agency that there is presently a «big danger,» due to a «change in people’s mentality towards materialism, which is a problem for Orthodox and Catholic alike.»

He underlined the need for the Church apply its efforts «to create a good foundation by catechesis.»

He stated, «People need more knowledge of faith and the Bible.» To that end, the aid agency is translating a catechism booklet into Georgian to aid in faith education.

The prelate affirmed: «We have a very good understanding with the Orthodox Church and want to see the faith better enrooted in the hearts of the people.

«We want to see people to be aware of, and to live out, moral values in their daily lives.»

He noted that cultivating ecumenical relations will help Catholics and Orthodox to combat secularism and materialism together.

The bishop noted, however that in rural areas there still are tensions between the Churches.

«For the Catholic minority there’s conflict with the Orthodox majority; they are not as well treated both at school and for finding job opportunities,» he explained. «The problem is not open, it’s hidden — but it’s real.»


Bishop Pasotto noted, for example, that some Catholic families baptize their children into the Orthodox Church in order to give their young ones more opportunities in life.

He added that these conflicts seem to be confined to the villages, and are uncommon in the towns.

«The big aim is unity as it is rooted in faith — message of Christ having unity, so only a matter of time until we reach this aim,» the bishop said. «The message of Christ is ‘ut unum sint’ [that they may be one] — and this is also my [episcopal] motto.»

He expressed his gratitude to the aid agency and other Church benefactors, affirmed that «it is very difficult to find funds for [pastoral] projects; support can be found for social projects but not pastoral ones.»

Neville Kyrke-Smith, the aid agency’s U.K. national director, who visited Georgia, affirmed that the country is «strategically key — both politically and religiously.»

«This region must avoid being Balkanized and destroyed by nationalism or post-soviet intervention,» he said.

Kyrke-Smith affirmed that the agency’s «support for pastoral projects is vital in supporting Christian hope in this historic Christian country.»

He added, «Ecumenical understanding and bridge-building are essential.»

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