Pope Francis wrote a letter to the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II to commemorate the Patriarch’s hospitality during his visit to Georgia three years ago, indicated the Embassy of Georgia to the Holy See, which refers to site interpressnews.ge.
Pope Francis’ invitation was made a few days after the presentation of the Letters of Credence of Princess Khetevane Bagration of Moukhrani new Ambassadress (and for the second time) of Georgia to the Holy See, on December 12.
“I would like to express my desire to see you again next year,” wrote the Pope. “Forty years have passed since your first historic visit to the Vatican. Appropriate events should take place on the occasion of this date and we would like the Choirs of the Patriarchate of Georgia and of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to take part in it,” he added.
“It would be wonderful if Your Holiness attended these events, whose moving church music is worthy of recognition and appreciation,” continued the Pontiff, who remembered the extraordinary Gregorian chants heard at the Patriarchate during the visit on October 1, 2016.
Pope Francis reached what he called the “culminating point” of his trip to Georgia when he went 20 kilometers northwest of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, to the ancient capital, Mtskheta. He was welcomed in the Svetitskhoveli Orthodox Cathedral, the Patriarchal See, by the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II. The Patriarch’s invitation was regarded as “a great sign of openness” by observers in Rome.
It was at Mtskheta that Georgians began to embrace Christianity. The 11th century Cathedral and the 6th Century Monastery are inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity. It was also in this Cathedral that the crowning of Georgia’s Kings took place and where they are buried. The first church was built in the 4th century.
It is also a place “bathed with tears,” stressed the Patriarch who mentioned the 100,000 Christians who were decapitated at Tbilisi in 1227 during the Turkmen incursions in Georgia, for having refused to step on the holy icons of Christ and of the Mother of God. However, Ilia II stressed again, Georgia found her strength in “prayer,” “faith”, “humility” and “mercy,” the “way of salvation.” Before offering him a gift and giving him the floor, the Patriarch expressed spontaneously to the Pope his “profound esteem” and his “fraternal love.”
After recalling the rich Christian cultural and spiritual patrimony of Georgia and the Georgian language, the Holy Father reflected on the precious relic on which the Cathedral was built: Christ’s seamless robe, brought by Helios, a Jew of Jerusalem, whose sister Saint Sidoeni is also buried in this place, as Patriarch Ilia recalled.
After his address, the Pope gave the Patriarch a present and together they listened to a poignant Aramaic chant interpreted a Capella by a choir, a young girl and a monk. The Pontiff seemed to remember the overwhelming chant in his
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