Thursday, May 18, 2023

Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia Makes Pilgrimage to Holy Sites in Gruzya (Georgia)

By Jean DuBois

TBILISI 18 May 2023 (NRom)

H.H. Bishop Rutherford I of Rome-Ruthenia recently made a pilgrimage to several important holy sites in Gruzya (Georgia). These sites included some of the most ancient in Christendom, dating to the times of the Early Church. Among these were the Jvari Monastery at Mtskheta, the original capital of Georgia. That site was the location where St. Nino, Equal-to-the-Apostles placed the first cross in Georgia. The church was built around it, and the central cross reliquary still contains a piece of the original cross. St. Nino was from Cappadocia and was a cousin of St. George the Martyr and Bringer of Victory, a major figure in the history of the Apostolic See of Saints Stephen and Mark. She is credited with bringing the Christian faith to Georgia. 

At the Jvari Monastery, where St. Nino
placed the first cross in Georgia.

Visiting the Bodbe Cathedral, where the grave
of St. Nino is located.

The Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia also visited the current Patriarchal church of Georgia, Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, as well as the original cathedral, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. Contained within that church is the Life-Giving Pillar, which contains the seamless tunic of Christ. A Georgian Jew went to Jerusalem and was there at the Crucifixion. He bought the robe of Jesus from a Roman soldier and brought it back to his home. Sidonia, his sister, touched the robe and was so overcome with emotion that she died. The robe could not be pried out of her hands. So, it was decided that she would be buried with it. The Life-Giving Pillar was built on that site. 

At the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi

The Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia at the Life-Giving Pillar,
containing the Robe of Christ. 

A picture of the complete Life-Giving Pillar.

Also within the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a symbolic copy of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries to commemorate the Robe of Christ held in the church. Thus the cathedral and Mtskheta are called the "Second Jerusalem." 

The miniature replica at the Svetitskhoveli
Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia, 
of the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Lastly the Bishop of Rome-Ruthenia visited the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe in the shadow of the Caucasus mountains, which dates to the early iron age and was known to classical writers. He also climbed the hills there containing ancient cave dwellings to visit the 9th century basilica of St. George, his name-saint. The basilica survived many earthquakes without sustaining any damage. 

At the Basilica of St. George, Uplistsikhe, Georgia.  

Georgia contains some of the oldest and most significant Christian sites, and its heritage is linked with that of the Russian Empire, Byzantium, and the Roman world, and therefore with that of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church and the Pontifical Imperial State. In addition to Byzantine succession, the Georgian Orthodox Church also claims descent from Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus. Those saints came from Armenia into Georgia and were the founders of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which in turn also is part of the Apostolic succession of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church. Georgia, from ancient times to being a major stop on the Silk Road to the present, not only maintains its own unique culture, but is a crossroads of many cultures. It is a place that all from Christendom should visit.