(Civil) - Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II left for Moscow for a four-day visit on March 1.
He was invited to Moscow by Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexei II to attend the presentation of the 13th volume of the Orthodox Encyclopedia.
Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on February 23, President Saakashvili described the visit as "a goodwill mission" and an element of public diplomacy.
The Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church will arrive in Moscow via a direct charter flight from Tbilisi.
Ties between the Georgian and Russian Orthodox Churches have been strained in relation to the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Georgian Orthodox Church has accused the Moscow Patriarchate on several occasions of attempting to take control of churches in the breakaway regions. The Russian Orthodox Church has has in turn denied the accusations, claiming that its ties with the breakaway regions are of a "humanitarian nature."