His Holiness Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, the beloved spiritual father of all Georgia, celebrated his 58th mass infant Baptism at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi yesterday on the feast of St. George the Victorious.
The Georgian primate became the Godfather to another 777 children this time, reports InterPressNews.
“Christ is Risen! I congratulate you with Giorgoba [the feast of St. George—O.C.], I congratulate you with the Baptism of my Godchildren,” the Patriarch said.
“Before today, 37,901 children have been baptized, and today 777 children were baptized,” Archpriest Shalva Kekeliya explained. Thus, to date, His Holiness has become the Godfather to 38,678 Georgian children. The previous Baptism was held on January 20, with 630 children being baptized.
“We usually try to make these Baptisms coincide with a feast. Today we had the Baptism in connection with the feast of St. George,” added Fr. Shalva.
St. George is highly venerated throughout Georgia, being a relative of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Nina who evangelized the Georgian people.
With the first mass Baptism on January 19, 2008, Patriarch Ilia commenced his initiative to help improve the dire demographic situation in Georgia caused by post-Soviet abortion rates. Such mass celebrations are held four times a year in which the primate personally baptizes and becomes the Godfather for the third and later children of married Orthodox couples.
According to the latest statistics, the country has a population of 3,718,200. According to the forecast of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), this number may drop to 2,985,000 people by 2050.
Pat. Ilia has been the primate of the Georgian Church for 41 years. At the time of his enthronement, there were 15 dioceses and only 30 active churches left thanks to communist persecutions. Today there are 47 dioceses and about 2,000 active parishes, as well as about 3,000 clergy.
This is wonderful, yet at the same time, I have to wonder how many of these parents will take this responsibility seriously. For so many parents in the West, baptism is just a thing to be done, rather than a serious entrance into the Christian life which requires steadfast follow up in parental catechesis and exemplary faithfulness to the faith. Included in this must be spoken fidelity to the apostolic faith, a rejection of all false ecumenism for the sake of “peace,” and making their children aware of the vast difference between Western theology and that of the Holy Church. All attempts at unia with the West must be resisted and these precious children must be made aware of why this is so. The only reunion can come when the West renounces Her errors and returns to the faith of the Apostles.
I say this as a Western Christian myself who has seen the errors of the West, the indifference of post-baptismal parents, and who is striving to get to the East. Pray for me, holy Orthodox reader, that the Lord would open the door for me to enter the True Church.
Fr. John says
Considering the lengths these parents go through to have their children baptized by the Patriarch, I’m going to pray that their zeal may not flag, and that their children will inherit it. Georgia is a majority Orthodox country, and while it is easy to ‘wonder’ if they are ‘real’ Christians, or ‘serious’ about their life in Christ, they are far ahead of the average American heterodox believer. I say that from experience of both.