Georgian Patriarch Ilia II on Friday visited All Saints Church in Moscow. (Photo: Salome Tsertsvadze and Ekaterina Tkachenko.)

TBILISI, DFWatch — Georgian Patriarch Ilia II Friday visited the All Saints Church in Sokol, in northern Moscow.

The church is the site of a now defunct graveyard where there are buried many well-known Georgians and royals. There has been construction work in the area lately, which has led to further destruction to some of the graves.

Patriarch Ilia II on Friday visited the place, with a delegation of the Georgian Orthodox Church, accompanied by Manager of Northern Vicariate Yegoryevsky Archbishop Mark and clergyman at George’s Church in Moscow Gruziny Archimandrite Vakhtang (Liparteliani).

Georgiy Ramazashvili, who has done research on the historic graves, was there and says he is encouraged by the patriarch’s visit.

“Georgian historians and the Georgian Church still try to get some tombstones back and plan to conduct some research. The visit of the Patriarch strengthens our hope, though indeed hope is not enough, because it is important to act rather than wait for result, without efforts,” he says.

Georgian noblemen and royals were buried at Vsekhsvyatskoye (All Saints) Cemetery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, after Georgia became a part of the Russian empire, including the famous poet Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani and Ioane Bagration, father of Petre Bagration, a famous Russian general of Georgian origin.

The graveyard went through a gradual decay since the late 19th century. In 1981, Soviet authorities declared it defunct, following an order to liquidate cemeteries in Moscow. Its current state is more a cemetery in the archaeological sense of the word, and the present day church is built on top of some of the graves, including that of Orbeliani.

In 2012, Georgia formally protested against the destruction of the cemetery and asked to rebury historic persons in Georgian soil. The protest came after Georgian media falsely claimed that Ioane Bagration’s grave had been removed in connection with the new construction work on the graveyard. According to Ramazashvili, that grave was in fact removed in 2005.

The patriarch had come to Moscow to receive the Russian Church’s Award of the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations, which is granted annually in recognition of someone who has worked to strengthen the unity of Orthodox Christian nations.

During his stay, Illia II met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The visit was very successful and I think this was a historic visit and it will have positive results,” the patriarch said at Tbilisi airport as he returned home on Saturday.