The Armenian Church today is dispersed throughout every continent of the world. Scattered about from centuries of attempting to escape persecution and most recently the Genocide of 1915 - 1923, Armenians have established communities and built churches wherever their fate delivered them. As the balance of the Armenian population has shifted throughout time, the Church has strived to meet the needs of her people. She has a distinct hierarchy, which maintains a balance within the Church herself. The center of this balance has always been the Catholicosate of All Armenians, and the heart of the Church, where She receives her lifeblood, is the global headquarters of the Armenian Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Through the visionary leadership of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the spiritual guidance of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, our Seminaries, Patriarchates, Dioceses, Parishes and most importantly, Clergy and faithful of the Armenian Church have played an active role in shaping our future today. Their collective strength has created a net that has been cast across the world.
This section provides the most current and relevant information on His Holiness Karekin II, along with an archive of his Sermons, Special Messages, and Encyclicals. Up to date specifics on the backbone of the Armenian Church, her worldwide clergy, Patriarchates, Dioceses, Parishes and Seminaries, is also provided. Links to websites and contact information are provided where available. As information changes this section will be updated appropriately.
His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, is the 132nd successor to Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and occupies the throne of St. Gregory in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
The Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians is the worldwide spiritual leader of the Nation, for Armenians both in Armenia and in the Dispersion. He is Chief Shepherd and Pontiff to nearly 9 million Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, dispersed throughout the world.
The supreme head of the Church is Jesus Christ. In the hierarchy of the Armenian Apostolic Church the Catholicos, a Greek term signifying “Universal Leader of the Church”, ranks higher than Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops in the Armenian Church. He is typically chosen from the College of Bishops, and once elected is regarded as the “First Among Equals." The Catholicos is consecrated by 12 bishops.
The Catholicos represents the centralized authority of the Armenian Church. He is the supreme judge and the head of the legislative body. He is President of the Supreme Spiritual Council as well as the College of Bishops. Ordination of bishops, blessing of Holy Chrism, proclamation of Feasts, invitation and dismissal of National-Ecclesiastical Assemblies, issuing decrees concerning the administration of the Armenian Church and establishing dioceses are part of his responsibilities.
The National-Ecclesiastical Assembly, convened in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, elects the Catholicos for life.
The Catholicos of All Armenians represents the Apostolic succession in Armenia; where through a line of bishops succeeding each other, the ministry of the Christian Church, assigned to the Apostles by Jesus Christ, has been transmitted to the present. It is inconceivable to imagine a Church of Armenia without the office of “Chief Bishop” or “Catholicos of All Armenians”. Without the episcopate, the Christians of Armenia would be under the jurisdiction of a neighboring see; and Armenian Christianity today would not be a distinct entity with its own national characteristics and identity.
The first Catholicos of All Armenians was Saint Gregory the Illuminator. St. Gregory was consecrated in 301 A.D., by Cappadocian Bishops in Caesarea, to establish the episcopacy of the Armenian nation through Apostolic succession. St. Gregory organized the hierarchy of the Armenian Church according to the principles of the Armenian state administrative system. He ordained a Bishop for every principality in Armenia. These Bishops were under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Bishop of Armenia, who was later known as the Catholicos of All Armenians.
The official title of His Holiness is:
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
To contact the Catholicosate:
His Holiness Karekin II
Catholicos of All Armenians
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia
Telephone: (374-10) 517-110
Fax: (374-10) 517-301
Facebook: Մայր Աթոռ Սուրբ Էջմիածին/ Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
The head of the Church is Jesus Christ. The Supreme Spiritual and Administrative leader of the Armenian Church is His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, who is the worldwide spiritual leader of the Nation, for Armenians both in Armenia and dispersed throughout the world. He is Chief Shepherd and Pontiff to 9,000,000 Armenian faithful. The spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Armenian Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, located in the city of Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia, was established in 301 AD and seventeen centuries later continues to guide our devoted nation and people on the luminous paths of fulfilling the primary mission of our Church - leading people to God. The Armenian Church has changed and developed to meet the needs of the faithful over her 1700 year history. Administratively, great care has been taken to be inclusive of a wide cross-section of the faithful. Both clergy and lay are involved in today’s administrative structure of the Church. Led by His Holiness, Karekin II, the spiritual and administrative work of the Armenian Church is carried out in the Republic of Armenia in the areas of Religion, Preparation of Clergy, Christian Education, Construction of new Churches, Social Services, and Ecumenical activities. Underneath this administrative structure are the hierarchal Sees:
The three historic aforementioned hierarchal sees administer to the Dioceses under their jurisdiction as they see fit, however, the supremacy of the Catholicosate of All Armenians in all spiritual matters remains pre-eminent. In addition to the responsibilities of overseeing their respective Dioceses, each hierarchical See, including the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, has a Monastic Brotherhood. Regionally, each area of the world where the Armenian Church and faithful are located has Dioceses, which are led by a Primate from the Diocesan Headquarters. Each Diocese is made up of Parishes and communities. The spiritual and administrative bodies representing the authority of the Armenian Church are the following:
The National Ecclesiastical Assembly is the supreme legislative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly are elected by the individual Diocesan Assemblies. The National Ecclesiastical Assembly elects the Catholicos of All Armenians.
The Council of Bishops is an administrative-deliberative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. It makes suggestions on the dogmatic, religious, church, parish and canonical issues to be discussed as agenda items during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.
The Supreme Spiritual Council is the highest executive body of the Armenian Church and is presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the Council can be elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Gevorg V. Soorenian established the Supreme Spiritual Council on January 1, 1924, to replace the Synod of Bishops.
The Diocesan Assembly is the highest legislative (canonical) body of each Diocese and is headed by the Primate of the Diocese. The Diocesan delegates (representatives of each parish community) elect the delegates to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, the members of the Diocesan Council as well as discuss and decide on administrative issues within the Diocese such as committees, budgets, building, etc. In some Dioceses, the Diocesan Assembly elects the Primate of the Diocese.
The Diocesan Council is the highest executive power of a diocese, presided over by the Primate of the Diocese. It regulates the inner administrative activity of the Diocese under the direction of the Primate. The Diocesan Assembly elects members of the Diocesan Council.
The Monastic Brotherhood is comprised of the celibate clergy of the monastery who are led by the Abbot. At present, there are three brotherhoods in the Armenian Church - the brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the brotherhood of St. James at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the brotherhood of the See of Cilicia. Each Armenian celibate priest becomes a member of the brotherhood in which he has studied and ordained in or under the jurisdiction of which he has served. The brotherhood makes decisions concerning the inner affairs of the monastery. Each brotherhood elects two delegates who take part in the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.
The Parish Assembly is the general assembly of the community presided over by the spiritual pastor. The Parish Assembly elects or appoints the members of the Parish Council and the representatives or delegates to the Diocesan Assembly.
The Parish Council is the executive-administrative body of the community. It is presided over by the spiritual pastor of the community who takes up the inner administrative affairs of the parish and is engaged in the realization of its administrative and financial activities. Members of the Parish Council are elected or appointed at the Parish Assembly.