TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian Orthodox Church issued a short statement Sunday evening explaining that Patiarch Ilia II never meant to ask for legislative amendments to grant him the right to pardon prisoners.

December 5, the patriarch attended a performance by women prisoners at Rustaveli Theatre, along with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and other government officials. Afterward, Ilia II said that the patriarch should have right to pardon prisoners.

The statement was supported by most cabinet members, including the prison minister and the PM, who asked the president and the parliament to consider such a proposal.

The initiative was also criticized and opinions about it differ, even within the ruling coalition, where some claim that the patriarch should have this right while others want Georgia to be a secular country and think giving the patriarch power to pardon prisoners would violate the Constitution.

The Constitution says the president has exclusive power to pardon prisoners, and if the patriarch were to be given this right, the Constitution would need to be changed.

“This was the first case when a theater stage was allocated for prisoners. The performance and environment was really emotional,” the statement by the Patriarchate reads.

“His Holiness [Ilia II] said on this background that it would have been nice if the patriarch had the right to pardon prisoners. This was an expression of solidarity and a desire of supporting them, not an option to consider legislative amendments.”