Georgia’s leading bishop has said it is vital for Catholics and Orthodox Christians to work together to resist the rise of secularism.
In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, Apostolic Administrator of the Caucuses, told how promoting ecumenism in the country is the top priority for the Catholic Church in Georgia.
The bishop told ACN, “The Church’s primary mission is to work for ecumenism and understanding with the [Georgian] Orthodox Church.” He stressed the need for the Christian churches to work together against encroaching secularism.
According to Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto all denominations in the country are being affected by globalization.
He said: “There has been a big increase [in secularism] due to the internet and the growth of communication technology; it has begun to infiltrate people, 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.”
While Georgia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity – back in the fourth century – the bishop is concerned that its historic values could be eroded.
He said, “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.
But, he added, “There is a big danger – as there is a change in people’s mentality towards materialism, which is a problem for Orthodox and Catholic alike.”
Bishop Pasotto added that catechesis will be key in helping people know their faith better. He said, “[It is a] big task for [the] Church to create a good foundation by catechesis. People need more knowledge of faith and the Bible.”
ACN’s I believe catechism is currently being translated into Georgian to help people to learn about the Faith.
He stressed that relations with the Orthodox Church will help them to combat the dangers of secularism and materialism together.
He said, “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.”
The bishop did tell ACN that there can be tensions between the two churches in rural areas.
He said, “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. The problem is not open, it’s hidden – but it’s real.”
He said that some Catholic families are having their children baptized Orthodox to give the child more opportunities in life.
While conflicts occur in the villages, he stressed that there are almost no conflicts in the towns.
Bishop Pasotto said: “The big aim is unity as it is rooted in faith – [the] message of Christ [is] having unity, so [it is] only a matter of time until we reach this aim.”
He added, “The message of Christ is ‘ut unum sint’ [that they may be one] – and this is also my [Episcopal] motto.”
Bishop Pasotto concluded, “I am very thankful to ACN for supporting pastoral projects.”
ACN has helped various pastoral projects including summer camps with catechetical courses for children, and subsistence aid for Religious Sisters.
The bishop said, “It is very difficult to find funds for these projects, support can be found for social projects but not pastoral ones. I wish to thank all benefactors who help the Church.”
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