2016-10-20 15:38:00

Fruits of Pope Francis' visit to Georgia

(Vatican Radio) Nearly three weeks on from Pope Francis’ visit to the Republic of Georgia, the country’s ambassador to the Holy See says the trip marked an important step on the path towards closer Western integration.

In an interview looking back at the fruits of the papal visit, Ambassador Tamara Grdzelidze also underlines the significant economic growth her country has seen since the end of the Soviet regime 25 years ago.


Ambassador Tamara says the visit of Pope Francis was one of the “brightest moments in our recent history”, adding that the Pope was very well received by the Georgian people.

She recalls that Catholics make up just 1% in a population of only 3.7 million people, most of whom belong to the Orthodox Church.

The ambassador also notes that the former Soviet republic is “clearly looking to Europe, to the west and wants to be a part of those western values and western principles that countries in Europe and North America have”.

From this political point of view, as well as from a pastoral perspective, she says, “the Pope’s visit was very important”, as the country’s prime minister emphasized in an interview the day before parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 8th.

Ambassasor Grdzelidze recalls that Georgia for 100 years was annexed by the Russian empire and then enjoyed just two years of independence, before being taken over by the Soviet regime. While there was a “total collapse” of the economy and high unemployment at the end of the Soviet period, she says, the poverty line in Georgia has now dropped from just over 42% in 2012 to 32% in 2014. There has also been a reduction in unemployment and an increase in GDP, she says.

The ambassador also praises the work of Caritas in helping the poorest families in Georgia, which often include former teachers from the Soviet era who have been unable to adjust to the new economic situation.

Today, she says, the Georgian economy is able to count on significant investments for the development of bigger businesses, while small businesses are supported by the government and by international funds.”

Agriculture is “our very strong point”, the ambassador says, noting that Georgia now  sends some products to the European market.

Another importance source of income is from tourism, she says, noting that from January to September 2016 Georgia welcomed some 4.879.000 visitors who come for the “good food, good wine and sightseeing”. “Tourism is a good source of income for Georgia now and especially in the future,” she says.

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