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
For official documents such as Encyclicals, the lengthened title is as follows:
KAREKIN II, SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST,
BY THE MERCY OF GOD AND THE WILL OF THE NATION,
CHIEF BISHOP AND CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS,
SUPREME PATRIARCH OF THE PAN-NATIONAL PRE-EMINENT ARARATIAN SEE,
THE APOSTOLIC MOTHER CHURCH OF UNIVERSAL HOLY ETCHMIADZIN
To read more about the history and election of our Catholicoi, two excellent resources are “Chosen of God The Election of the Catholicos of All Armenians from the 4th Century to the Present” by Father Krikor Vardapet Maksoudian and “The Catholicoi of Etchmiadzin and overview of the Electoral Process” by Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian.
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
COURTASY: Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin