TBILISI, Georgia, MARCH 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The apostolic administrator of the Caucasus has opened a seminary and an institute of theology in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, in response to new vocations.
There is a Catholic community of three rites (Latin, Armenian and Syro-Chaldean) in the midst of an Orthodox majority in this former Soviet republic. The Latin-rite presence includes 50,000 faithful, about 20 priests and seven religious communities.
Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, the administrator, has established the two institutions to form the diocesan clergy as soon as possible. There are seven candidates in formation, and new vocations are in the offing.
The pastoral activity of the Catholic clergy and of the women religious in the republic includes efforts to prepare liturgical and catechetical material in the Georgian language. The translation of the Missal is being completed as well as tools being prepared for catechesis.
Of special interest is the Iner Institute, which teaches the regulation of fertility through natural methods.
“There is no public structure in Georgia for pregnant women,” explained Lali Ciarkviani, director of the center at Kutaisi, the country’s second city.
“So abortion, which is still illegal, is widespread, as it costs only 15 laris ($7) to practice it. Our center hopes to foster a change in culture directed to a responsible reception of life,” she explained.
Together with the endeavor for spiritual care, attempts are also being made to help the needy.
“Caritas-Georgia works in two directions: essential needs and development,” said its director, Polish Salesian Father Witold Szulcznski.
The soup kitchen in the center of Tbilisi, a few steps from the Parliament, serves up 460 meals a day.
Finishing touches are being given there to a home for street children. Fifty people work in Caritas’ bakery, and “many foreign embassies and official Georgian institutions come here to buy bread, sweets and cakes,” the priest said.