Georgian Church Leader Sparks a Baby Boom

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2009 6:10 PM CDT
Georgia's Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A little divine intervention has apparently helped a city in the nation of Georgia give its population a boost. Two years ago, faced with a stagnant birth rate, the head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church pledged to personally baptize any child born to parents with more than two other kids. The results are “a miracle,” says the church. The birth rate increased by 20% in 2008, 4 times as much as the year before, the BBC reports.

“There's no doubt in my mind that we had Giviko because of the patriarch's incentive,” one mother said of Ilia II’s initiative. “To have a child baptized by the patriarch is so very special.” Though the incentive has likely helped in a country that is 80% Orthodox, others think the improving economy might also have played a role. “Who is now creating families?” a government official asked. “People who five years ago were out of work.”