A poisonous plot has emerged at the very pinnacle of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
On February 10 Deacon Giorgi Mamaladze was detained at Tbilisi airport.
Officials found a quantity of cyanide in his luggage and subsequent searches uncovered firearms at his home.
It transpires that the high-ranking priest was on his way to visit the ailing Georgian Orthodox patriarch, Ilia II, who was preparing to undergo gall bladder surgery in Berlin.
Mamaladze has been charged with conspiracy to murder and the affair has sent shockwaves running through the deeply religious country.
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The Georgian prime minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, was enthusiastic about the work of the security forces to thwart the plot:“We avoided a huge disaster. A crime against our country, a perfidious attack on our church, has been prevented.” quoted the interfax news agency.
The prime minster promptly dispatched Anzor Chubinidze, the head of the Special State Protection Service and a group of agents to protect the now convalesent 84-year-old.
Georgian President Margvelashvili took to Facebook: “I am concerned about the information released by the Prosecutor’s Office, according to which, murder of a clergyman of high hierarchy was planned. We are in active communication with the Prosecutor‘s Office and are monitoring the investigation.”
At no point is the intended victim of the alleged plot named by officials, however Rustavi 2 television reported that the patriarch may have been the intended target.
The machination came to light after Mamaladze allegedly offered an unnamed individual money and other “unlawful benefits” in exchange for the poison.
The person involved then tipped off the police and a probe was launched.
Ilia II is credited with boosting the flagging Georgian birthrate by 25 percent between 2005 to 2010.
The patriarch vowed to become the godfather of all Georgian children born into Orthodox Christian families with two or more children.
Since Ilia II began mass baptisms in 2008 he has become godfather to 11,000 children.