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    GEORGIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OFFERS HELP IN TBILISI-BATUMI DISPUTE MEDIATION

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    TBILISI, MARCH 14, 2004, (RIA NOVOSTI) - The Orthodox Church would like to help mediate in the dispute between the governments of Georgia and Adzharia (one of the three Georgian autonomies), Catholicos-Patriarch Elijah II of All Georgia said as he addressed the public in the capital of Tbilisi Sunday.

    "The Georgian Church is ready to contribute to the process of settling the confrontation between the center and the region," Elijah II said. "I hope that the current confrontation will not grow into a conflict." "Adzharia is part and parcel of Georgia. Adzharia is very dear to me personally-it was inhabitants of Adzharia who formed my first flock; I served there for seven years," the Patriarch said.

    The Georgian Orthodox Church has always been the unifying force for Georgia, and "we will do our best to ensure that the Church continues to perform this formidable task," the Patriarch said. He concluded his address by calling on the nation to live in peace.

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