ENGLISH VERSION: Bishop Ambrose of Methoni, assistant to Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, "The methods of Father Vasili Mkalavishvili have changed"
Portal-Credo.Ru: What is the reason of the arrest of Father Vasilij Mkalavishvili, the leader of your parishes in Georgia?
Bishop Ambrose: His arrest and imprisonment for three months' "preliminary detention" was ordered by a Tbilisi district court last June. This sentence was never in fact applied. The accusations against him then were for inciting destruction of others' property (Jehovas' Witness and Pentecostal Materials). These cases have been brought repeatedly to court (I have in fact attended two such tribunals) but were all either dismissed for lack of evidence or delayed because the witnesses for the prosecution did not appear. At present he and those arrested with him have been condemned to three months' "preliminary detention" pending their trial. What the charges against all of them will be finally is as yet unknown. On the other hand, the comments made by President Saakashvili about the arrest make it clear that he was under pressure to proceed in this direction, and the political element in the question (too complex to be analyzed here) should not be overlooked.
Unfortunately, in Georgia the separation of the judicial from the legislative authorities is still far from where it should be.
-- Is your Synod doing anything for Father Basil to be discharged?
On the one hand, we are powerless to do more that promote an international protest, which has been done, and on the other, Father Vasili is clearly subject to the law of the land in which he lives.
-- What is your opinion about religious life of modern Georgia?
The material misery of the country has meant that the majority of the working-aged population has left, leaving a curious society behind, further confused by the influx of refugees from Abkhazia, and the stirrings of a national conscience in the very substantial Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian, Greek etc. minorities. Many are returning to the Christian faith, but the general level of Orthodox teaching is very low, and a normal parish life is confined to the capital and a few large towns - the country churches are virtually abandoned. Like all the other former Soviet peoples, the Georgians are trying to rediscover their cultural and religious roots, but it is a long and painful process, and the general example set by the clergy of the Patriarchate is of little help.
-- Do not you think that some of the methods of the struggle of Father Basil against the Protestants were excessive?
Briefly - yes. But these particular events happened some years ago, and now his methods have changed.