July 7, 2011 - 14:33 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Legislative amendment allowing religious minority groups to be registered as legal entities of public law, went into force after being published on July 6 by the state online registry of legal acts.
Posting of the document by Sakanonmdeblo Matsne (legislation herald) means that it has been signed into law by President Saakashvili - a day after it was passed with its second and third hearings by the Parliament on July 5.
According to the amendment into civil code, religious groups, which have “historic ties to Georgia” or are defined as religions by legislation in Council of Europe member states can be registered as legal entities of public law.
The Georgian Orthodox Church condemned approval of the amendment saying it was in conflict with "interests of both the Church and the country.” Senior clerics from the Georgian Church say that it would now pave the way for some religious minority groups, particularly the Armenian Apostolic Church, to formally claim ownership over several disputed churches. The Georgian Patriarchate was insisting that the Georgian Church too should have been granted a legal status in Armenia in parallel to the similar decision by Georgia, Civil.ge reported.
Georgian parliament introduced amendments to Civil Code on July 1, granting the status of legal persons of public law to 5 religious units - Armenian Apostolic Church, Roman Catholic Church, the Muslim community, the Jewish community and the Baptist church in Georgia.
Law of Georgia defines a legal person of public law as an organization separated from the state bodies, created by the relevant law, enact of the President of Georgia or by the administrative act of state bodies, adopted on the basis of law, which conducts political, state, social, educational, cultural and other public activities. The issue of Armenian Apostolic Church status is on the agenda of the Armenian-Georgian relations. Within the visit of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to Georgia, the Georgian side offered to provide Georgian Orthodox Church in Armenia the same rights as the Armenian Apostolic Church has in Georgia.