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Author Topic: Armenian Catholicoi  (Read 821 times) Average Rating: 0
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deusveritasest
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« on: June 12, 2010, 06:52:07 PM »

I have a couple of questions about the Armenian Catholicoi.

First, I am wondering whether originally it was that the Catholicos was understood to have jurisdiction over all people or Armenian descent, or only of the people of the Kingdom of Armenia? When the Roman Empire acquired some Armenian provinces in the eastern part of the Diocese of Pontus, were the people of those provinces under the Exarch of Caesarea or the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin?

It seems like the Armenian Catholicos was moved to Cilicia in the 11th century. Then in the 15th century there was a Catholicos restored back in the Armenian homeland in Etchmiadzin, however it did not transfer from Cilicia this time and there came to be two Catholicoi. It seems like might have caused some to identify one or the other as the real "Catholicos of All Armenians". Is this still disagreed upon between the two? Or has this matter been decided in favor of Etchmiadzin?
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2010, 01:26:19 AM »

The original place for the Catholicos was at Etchmiadzin, something which is touched on in this post in the OO music thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9840.msg443024.html#msg443024

(reply 463)

I'm far from being an expert on these things, but this is the history as best I understand it:

Because of the tumultuous history of the area, the Catholicosate (is that the right word?) had to move several times.  I think a couple of the earlier places it moved to were Dvin and Ani.  At one point the Catholicos was at Akhtamar, before moving to Cilicia.  In fact, after the Catholicosate moved from Akhtamar, the people of Akhtamar still wanted a catholicos, so one continued to exist there up until the time of the Genocide. 

Eventually, the Catholicosate moved to Cilicia and was there for a few hundred years.  This was during the Crusades, and during that time that the Catholicos united the Church with the Roman Catholics, a move which the Vartabeds in Greater Armenia vehemently opposed.  Finally, in the fifteenth century, an agreement was reached that said when the Catholicos in Cilicia died the new Catholicos who replaced him would be up at Etchmiadzin.  So the Catholicos in Cilicia died, and a new one was installed in Etchmiadzin.

The problem was that the people of Cilicia, like the people of Akhtamar, wanted to still have a catholicos.  So even though the new Catholicos was installed at Etchmiadzin, the Armenians in Cilicia went ahead and installed a new Catholicos for themselves, and a Catholicosate continued to exist there. 

Is this making sense?  If it isn't, don't worry.   Smiley

Anyway, at the time of the Genocide there were really three catholicoi:  Etchmiadzin, Cilicia and Akhtamar.  In addition to that, there were two Patriarchs at Jerusalem and Constantinople.  The Catholicoi at Cilicia and Akhtamar had local jurisdiction where they were, but the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin was (and still is) universal.  The Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople, for example, have their bishops ordained at Etchmiadzin, and they get their muron from Etchmiadzin.

At the time of the Genocide, the Armenians of Akhtamar and Cilicia were slaughtered.  The Catholocosate of Akhtamar ceased to exist, but the Catholicosate of Cilicia was eventually able to reestablish itself in Antelias, Lebanon.

So that is why there are two Catholicoi today in the Armenian Church, one in Etchmiadzin and one in Antelias.  With regard to your question as to which is the "real 'Catholicos of All Armenians,'" Etchmiadzin has traditionally been recognized as having universal jurisdiction.  As noted above, both Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople have their bishops ordained at Etchmiadzin, etc.  However, with the existence of the diaspora after the Genocide, there have been issues raised as to which catholicos has jurisdiction over the Armenians in diaspora.  That is why in most places here in the U.S. with an Armenian community, you'll see two sets of Armenian churches: some under Etchmiadzin, and some under Cilicia (Antelias.)

I have to stress, though, that having all these different catholicoi has never been a cause for excommunication.  All the catholicoi and patriarchs are in communion with each other.  Our bishops concelebrate, and Armenian laypersons can take communion in both churches without a problem.
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2010, 03:38:34 AM »

Salpy has given a thorough and very accurate description of the history of the Catholicoi (and, yes, Catholicosate is the right word  Grin ).

One additional factor that historically played into and hardened the division between Etchmiadzin and Cilicia was a perception on the part of some Armenians that the Church in the motherland was a puppet to the communist regime. In the early 1930's, the issue erupted in the assassination of Archbishop Levon Tourian in NYC, as he processed down the aisle of his cathedral during the service of the Soorp Badarak (liturgy). The establishment of separate parishes in the US, subject to Cilicia, occurred subsequent to that (previously, North America had been considered the exclusive canonical territory of Etchmiadzin) and a formal break between the two Sees occurred in the mid-50's.

The election of Karekin I as Catholicos of Etchmiadzin in 1995 was somewhat of a landmark, as he had been previously the Catholicos of Cilicia. While it didn't result in merger of the Catholicosates, as some had predicted or hoped, it certainly moved things toward a more unified existence than had been the case for some time prior.

As memory serves, it is only in North America, Greece, and Syria that overlapping canonical jurisdictions exist (i.e., duplicative dioceses, one dependent on Etchmiadzin, the other on Cilicia).  

I'd take issue with only one point that Salpy made and that is

Quote
Armenian laypersons can take communion in both churches without a problem.

- to speak of 'both churches' suggests more of a division than now exists.

I think it would be more accurate (as regards the parishes in North America) to say that "Armenian laypersons can take communion in the churches of any of the dioceses (the Eastern and Western Dioceses of the US and the Diocese of Canada, all under the jurisdiction of Etchmiadzin; and, the Prelacies of the Eastern US, Western US, and Canada, all under the jurisdiction of Cilicia) without a problem".  

Many years,

Neil
« Last Edit: June 13, 2010, 03:53:08 AM by Irish Melkite » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2010, 06:51:48 PM »

First, I am wondering whether originally it was that the Catholicos was understood to have jurisdiction over all people or Armenian descent, or only of the people of the Kingdom of Armenia? When the Roman Empire acquired some Armenian provinces in the eastern part of the Diocese of Pontus, were the people of those provinces under the Exarch of Caesarea or the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin?

I'm still wondering whether the jurisdiction of the Catholicos was originally understood to be of "All Armenia" in the sense of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia or of all Armenian persons in general?
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2010, 08:54:04 PM »

Do you mind my asking, why? Of what consequence is it? Quite honestly, I doubt that there is a definitive answer to that question available - as in one that can be stated while pointing to documentation.

In an era when religious and secular governance were often exercised in concert. it's very likely that the ability to religiously govern outside of one's own geographic territory was relatively constricted. It was, more likely, non-existent if the area to which one wanted to extend such religious influence was a region controlled by a secular enemy of one's own ruler.

Many years,

Neil
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