A Georgian Orthodox Archbishop is facing criticism for his rough baptism of babies (video below).
Ilia II, the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, was filmed dunking tiny babies into vats full of holy water, as part of the Jan. 6 celebration of the Epiphany, reports the Daily Mail.
The 84-year-old Russian can be seen spinning the babies like rag dolls, submerging them by both head and feet into the water.
In 2007, in an effort to reverse Georgia's declining birth rate and encourage his followers to grow their families, he offered to personally baptize any child born to a family that already has at least two children. As part of the deal, the patriarch is declared to be the godfather of every child he baptizes.
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The baptism promotion apparently worked, because the following year Georgia had its highest number of births in nine years, reports CNN.
Ilia II proudly credits himself for the surge in births. "I have already baptized about 5,000 children," he declared. "Parents decided to give birth to these children because they had a chance to be the patriarch's godchildren."
Though many have objected to his baptism technique, criticism does not seem to have affected Ilia II's standing. He has led the Georgian Orthodox Church now for over 30 years, and according to a 2008 poll published by the Tbilisi-based International Centre on Conflicts and Negotiation, he is the most trusted man in the country.
Born Irakli Shiolashvili, Ilia II was crowned His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia in 1977, when Georgia was still part of the Soviet Union.
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