Georgia is among the oldest Christian nations. The Christian faith was preached here by the Holy Disciples of Christ: Andrew the First Called, Simon the Zealot, Matthias, Bartholomew, and Thaddeus.
At the beginning of the 4th century, thanks to Saint Nino’s apostolic activities, King Parnavaz adopted Christianity and declared it to be the state religion. In the 5th century, as a result of King Vakhtang Gorgasal’s invaluable efforts, the Georgian church became autocephalous.
The Christian faith determined the type of Georgian civilization and the political fate of the Georgians, their identity and national consciousness. According to St. Ilia the Righteous (Ilia Chavchavadze - 1837-1907), to be a Christian was the same with us as to be Georgian and vice versa. Our monasteries, within Georgia as well as abroad, carried out profound research and educational activities and made a significant contribution to the development of Christian thought. Among them were the monasteries in Palestine, Tao-Klarjeti, Petritsoni, on the Black Mountain and Athos, and the academies in Gelati and Ikalto.
Russia’s occupation of Georgia resulted in the abolition of the autocephaly of the Georgian church. Church services were conducted in Russian, which brought about an alienation of the congregation from a church guided lifestyle. The Georgian clergy, as well as secular public figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, waged an intensive struggle for the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian church.
The atheistic policy of the Georgian Bolshevik authorities (1921-1990) seriously affected the Christian faith, shook and caused a decline of the Georgian Orthodox Church, compelled the Georgian population to resign itself to ‘new idols and new symbols of faith’, infringed upon the ancestral traditions, forcibly introduced the aggressive atheism of Marxism and Leninism among all layers of population, especially among social scientists. Soviet ideologists artificially separated scholars from the mother-church and disseminated ideas about the incompatibility of science and religion. Decades of antireligious campaigns had a devastating outcome: a significant number of scholars were left deprived of faith. It became necessary to restore the artificially destroyed bridge, to strengthen and to develop relations between faith and science.
From 1977 on, this difficult task has been painstakingly implemented by His Holiness and Beatitude, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II.

© ICCS, 2011