An overview of public financing provided to the Georgian Patriarchate
Update, 2 August 2013: English translation of the database added.
In the period from 2002 till this day, the government of Georgia has allocated up to GEL 200.000.000 to the Georgian Patriarchate.
This is one of the figures that, over the past few months, Transparency International Georgia has come across while collecting information regarding the state budget’s funding of various religious denominations. Having sent a request for public information to both central and local government institutions, we would like to here present our findings.
The information we have received reveal that the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church, in terms of state financing, is in the lead. Although obtaining information about government assistance to other denominations proved to be difficult, those documents that were at our disposal indicate that in recent years the state has been showing less concern over them.
Under the 4th paragraph of Article 6 of the Constitutional Agreement concluded between the Georgian State and the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church in 2002, ‘The Church financing sources include: voluntary contributions, corporate income, investments, grants, donations, and other income received in accordance with applicable law.’
The chief sources of income of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church are private donations and funding received from the state institutions. We think it is important for the public to be aware of the funding that the Georgian Patriarchate receives from the state budget.
Funds allocated by the Ministry of Finance
During 2002-2013, direct funding allocated to the Church by the Ministry of Finance made up GEL 160.672.200. In 2002, at the time of signing the Constitutional Agreement, the Ministry allocated the Apostolic Church GEL 857.600. In the aftermath of the “Rose Revolution”, as the state budget grew, so did the governmental funding of the Patriarchate. There were cases when funding increased nearly threefold. Take, for example, the figure of the Church’s financing in 2005 which amounted to GEL 1.290.100; in 2006 and 2007 it then soared to GEL 4.803.300 and GEL 4.270.600 respectively; in 2008 it then reached GEL 12.933.400. After the war between Russia and Georgia, the Patriarchate received additional financing which almost doubled the Church’s revenue to GEL 26.394.900 (2009). The Patriarchate financing decreased a little in the subsequent years (GEL 24.391.700 in 2011 and GEL 22.800.000 in 2012). The new government's decision to support the Church, however, brought the figures back up again and now amounts to GEL 25.000.000 (for more information, see the attached document).
Funds allocated under the decrees of the President and government
GEL 8.388.200 was spent under presidential and governmental decree for holding various activities between 2006 and 2012. The media furthermore reported that GEL 10.401.087 was allocated to the Church by the President from the Presidential Reserve Fund, of which GEL 2.170.290 was spent for purchasing cars for the churches. In 2008, two days prior to presidential elections, GEL 1.700.000 was transferred to the Patriarchate from the Presidential Fund. Also, in July 2012, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under then Minister Bacho Akhalaia, bought a EUR 110,000 Mercedes car for the Patriarchate. This information was not indicated in the data we received from the Ministry (added: 2 August 2013). Under the Georgian Government decree, the "Ertsulovneba" television received GEL 400.000 from the government’s Reserve Fund for functional purposes in 2009. Pursuant to the Government decree, the State Minister for Diaspora Affairs provided financial assistance to the Western European Diocese of the Georgian Patriarchate of GEL 600.000 in 2011 and 2012 (for more information see the attached document).
Local municipalities have allocated around GEL 16.000.000 to the Georgian Patriarchate from 2002 up until today according to administrative authorities’ information.
Current documents reveal that municipalities are helping out eparchies either with small monetary subsidies, such as the financing of various events, or with more tangible assets, such as the transferral of movable or immovable property.
Notable examples include:
Vani municipality allocated GEL 280.000 to the local eparchy in 2011-2012; this year, Kutaisi Municipality allocated GEL 90.000; Samtredia municipality allocated GEL 182.000 in 2009; in 2010, Lagodekhi municipality allocated GEL 31.805 to Hereti and Nekresi eparchy; Mtskheta municipality allocated GEL 1.118.275 for constructing a multifunctional complex adjacent to Svetitskhoveli temple in 2010; in 2012, Chkhorotsku municipality allocated GEL 200.000 for the construction of David the Builder's Church; Poti City Hall allocated GEL 5.000.000 for the restoration and reconstruction of the temple of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin in the period up until November 1, 2012 and another GEL 550.000 from 1 November onwards. 1.740 sq. m. of non-agricultural land located in Batumi, at Besiki/Vazha-Pshavela crossing owned by Ajara Autonomous Republic was transferred to the Georgian Patriarchate through direct sale for the price of 1 GEL. The monthly subsidy provided by Borjomi municipality to the Georgian Church is on average GEL 6.000 (for more information see the attached document).
The study also found that Lanchkhuti municipality rendered financial assistance not to the Patriarchate or local eparchy, but directly to individuals who, according to the same municipality, belonged to the clergy.
Property transferred either gratis or for 1 GEL by the President, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and Tbilisi City Hall
The Georgian Government has repeatedly handed over land, parks, and buildings across the country to the Georgian Patriarchate either free of charge or for a symbolic price, i.e. one GEL. On December 30, 2007, the acting president signed 10 decrees by which the Church received free of charge several hectares of forestland for management. The Patriarchate likewise received from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development real estate in various regions for the price of one GEL. Take for example the case where the Patriarchate in 2008 received a building located in Sioni Str. # 13/40, Tbilisi, with the total area of 4.971,44 sq. m and with 2272 sq. m. of non - agricultural land attached for one GEL through direct purchase. That same year, the Patriarchate received the “Khulo'' cinema building located in Khulo municipality, with 486.1 sq. m. utility area and 462 sq. m. of non - agricultural land attached. Another case was in 2010, where a total of 8.200 sq. m. of non - agricultural land and 1.310 sq. m. of buildings became the property of the Patriarchate through direct sale in Zestaponi municipality, Gardabani, Rustavi, the town of Aspindza, and Tbilisi.
Tbilisi City Hall also has also provided the Georgian Patriarchate several dozens of hectares of land and buildings for the price of one GEL in different districts of Tbilisi between 2008 and 2010 (e.g., land with the total area of 3.459 sq. m. located in Dighomi village; 1800 sq. m. of non - agricultural land in Fighters for the Unity of Georgia street, adjacent to "Agregati" Ltd; 7500 sq. m. of land in Bagebi, adjacent to Motor Vehicle Inspection Unit; 2505 sq. m. of land with buildings in Panaskerteli Street # 14; for more information see the attached document).
Other religious denominations
As already mentioned above, according to the submitted documents, several administrative bodies have openly stated that they are not financing religious denominations other than the Georgian Church, while others left our question unanswered. The written documents available to us confirm several cases of government subsidies to other religious denominations between 2002 and 2012. In 2010, under the Presidential Decree, the Yezidi Union of Georgia received 1629 sq. m. of land in Varketili (Tbilisi) district for one GEL with the purpose of building a Kurdish cultural center for Kurdish and Georgian languages, history, culture, and computer training courses. According to the documents covering the period from 2002 to 2012, which were made available to us by the authorities and the municipality of Akhalkalaki, pecuniary aid had recently been allocated to the Georgian and Armenian Churches (financial assistance to the Georgian and Armenian Churches during 2009-2012 numbered at GEL 35.624).
Despite the fact that obtaining public information from the government has recently become considerably easier, the majority of administrative bodies which provided the information we requested regarding this subject of religious financing did so with a certain amount of delay, while some of them did not respond to us at all.
We believe that financial assistance rendered by the government to any religious denomination should be transparent. Informing the public proactively will be helpful to avoid making various interpretations regarding such important issues as the funding of various denominations from the state budget.