Armenian Catholic Church

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Emblem of the Armenian Catholic Church.svg
Armenian Catholic Church
Armenian: Հայ Կաթողիկէ Եկեղեցի
St Elie - St Gregory Armenian Catholic Cathedral.jpg
Cathedral of Saint Elias and Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the cathedra of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of Cilicia.
Classification Eastern Catholic
Orientation Armenian
Theology Catholic theology
Polity Episcopal
Pope Francis
Head Patriarch Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan
Region Armenian diaspora
Language Armenian
Liturgy Armenian Rite
Headquarters Cathedral of St Elias and St Gregory the Illuminator, Beirut, Lebanon
Founder Abraham Petros I Ardzivian
Ottoman Empire (modern Armenia)
Members150,000 (independent estimates) [1] [2]
757,726 (2017 Annuario Pontificio ) [3]
Official website

The Armenian Catholic Church (Armenian : Հայ Կաթողիկէ Եկեղեցի, romanized: Hay Kat’ołikē Ekełec’i; Latin : Ecclesia armeno-catholica) is one of the Eastern particular churches sui iuris of the Catholic Church. They accept the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, known as the papal primacy, and therefore are in full communion with the Catholic Church, including both the Latin Church and the 22 other Eastern Catholic Churches. The Armenian Catholic Church is regulated by Eastern canon law, namely the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches .


The head [4] [5] of the sui iuris Armenian Catholic Church is the Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia, whose main cathedral and de facto archiepiscopal see is the Cathedral of Saint Elias and Saint Gregory the Illuminator, in Beirut, Lebanon.


The 451 Council of Chalcedon caused problems for the Armenian Church which formally broke off communion with the Chalcedonian Churches at the 3rd Synod of Dvin in 610, some Armenian bishops and congregations especially the Church of Caucasian Albania made attempts to restore communion with the Chalcedonian Churches after the 6th Ecumenical Council of 681. During the Crusades, the Church of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia entered into a union with the Catholic Church, an attempt that did not last. The union was later re-established during the Council of Florence in 1439, but did not have any real effects for centuries.

Some Armenians converted to Catholicism, and in the absence of any specific Armenian Catholic Church in effect became Latins. In Medieval China, Armenians in China were converted to Catholicism by John of Montecorvino in Beijing and there was also an Armenian Franciscan Catholic community in Quanzhou.

In 1740, Abraham-Pierre I Ardzivian, who had earlier become a Catholic, was elected as the patriarch of Sis. Two years later Pope Benedict XIV formally established the Armenian Catholic Church. In 1749, the Armenian Catholic Church built a convent in Bzoummar, Lebanon. During the Armenian Genocide in 1915–1918 the Church scattered among neighboring countries, mainly Lebanon and Syria.

An Armenian Catholic community was also previously formed by Armenians living in Poland in 1630s the Armenian bishop of Leopolis (see Armenian Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv), Nicholas (Polish: Mikołaj) Torosowicz had entered into union with the Catholic Church. The community which had been historically centered in Galicia as well as in the pre-1939 Polish borderlands in the east, was after World War II expelled to present-day Poland and now has three parishes: in Gdańsk, in Gliwice and in Warsaw.

Liturgy and practices

The church belongs to the group of Eastern Rite Catholic churches and uses the Armenian Rite and the Armenian language in its liturgy. The Armenian Rite is also used by both the Armenian Apostolic Church and by a significant number of Eastern Catholic Christians in the Republic of Georgia. It is patterned after the directives of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder and patron saint of the Armenian Church. Unlike the Byzantine Church, churches of the Armenian rite are usually devoid of icons and have a curtain concealing the priest and the altar from the people during parts of the liturgy. The use of bishop's mitre and of unleavened bread is reminiscent of the influence Western missionaries once had upon both the miaphysite Orthodox Armenians as well as upon the Armenian Rite Catholics.[ citation needed ]

Armenian Catholic communities

Apart from Armenia, Georgia and Russia, Armenian Catholic Church is found widely in the Armenian diaspora, notably in Lebanon (where the Armenian Catholic Church is headquartered), Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, France, U.S.A., Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia.

Armenia, Georgia and Eastern Europe

Armenian Rite Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Gliwice, Poland, built in 1836-38. Gliwice St. Trinitatis.jpg
Armenian Rite Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Gliwice, Poland, built in 1836-38.

Armenian Catholics originated in what is today Armenia, Georgia and Eastern Europe. Beginning in the late 1920s, persecution caused many Armenian Catholics to emigrate. In 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul II merged the communities in Georgia and Russia with those in Armenia, creating a new ordinariate of Armenia and Eastern Europe, with its residence in Gyumri. The city was not chosen by chance: Most Catholic Armenians live in the northern parts of Armenia. This has become a kind of basis for fence-mending with the coreligionists on the other side of the border.

Today Catholic Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakheti live together in Akhaltsikhe and in the nearby villages, as well as in the regions of Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda. The communities in the last two regions, which are mainly rural, are in rather distant areas, but the most important link is the historical memory of Catholicism.

A small seminary was established in Gyumri, Armenia, in 1994; there candidates for the priesthood engage in basic studies before moving to the Pontifical College of the Armenians (established 1885) in Rome, where they pursue philosophy and theology.

There are also tens of thousands of Armenian Catholics in Russia, due to the large amount of migration from Armenia to Russia that has occurred since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

United States and Canada

Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Glendale, California Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale , California (2001) crop.JPG
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Glendale, California

Presently, around 1.5 million Armenians live in North America, of which 35,000 belong to the Armenian Catholic Church.

In the 19th century Catholic Armenians from Western Armenia, mainly from the towns and cities of Karin (Erzurum), Constantinople, Mardin etc., came to the United States seeking employment. At the end of the same century, many survivors of the Hamidian Massacres had concentrated in several U.S. cities, chiefly in New York. Catholic Armenian communities were also founded in New Jersey, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities of California.

Catholic Armenian educational organizations were also founded in many cities. In Philadelphia and Boston Colleges of Armenian sisters were founded, educating hundreds of children. Later, a similar college was founded in Los Angeles. Mechitarists were preoccupied with the problem of preserving Armenian identity. By the effort of Mekhitarists in Venice and Vienna, the Mkhitarian College was founded in Los Angeles.

Many Armenians came to the United States and Canada from the Middle Eastern countries of Lebanon and Syria in the 1970s and in later years. Also many Armenians immigrated from Argentina, because of the economic crisis. At the same time, many Catholic Armenians inside the United States moved to San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami and Indianapolis.

In 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI's decision, the Catholic Exarchate of the USA and Canada was advanced to the status of a diocese. It serviced 35,000 Catholic Armenians in the United States and some 10,000 in Canada. The bishop, or eparch, of the diocese, which has jurisdiction over Canadian and American Catholics who are members of the Armenian Catholic Church, became Manuel Batakian. According to a Monday, May 23, 2011 news release by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pope Benedict XVI, named Archpriest Mikaël Antoine Mouradian, superior of the Convent of Notre Dame in Bzommar, Lebanon, as the new bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics. The appointment of Lebanon-born Bishop Mouradian was publicized in Washington, May 21, by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. [6]


Next to North America, France holds the largest number of Armenian Catholics outside of the areas of the Middle East and Oriental Europe. The Eparchy of Sainte-Croix-de-Paris was established in 1960 with Bishop Garabed Armadouni as exarch. Since 1977, the eparchy has been led by Bishop Krikor Gabroyan.

There are some 30,000 Armenian Catholics in the eparchy, the headquarters of which is in Paris. The eparchy has six churches apart from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Paris: Arnouville-lès-Gonesse, Lyon, Marseille, Saint-Chamond, Sèvres and Valence. A community of Mekhitarist Fathers resides in Sèvres and a convent of Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception runs a school in Marseille.


Bishops meeting in Jerusalem, circa 1880 (note the Roman pallium worn by the archbishop in the centre). Al Quds Patriarch.jpg
Bishops meeting in Jerusalem, circa 1880 (note the Roman pallium worn by the archbishop in the centre).

According to an 1842 article by C. W. Russell in The Dublin Review there were 150,000 Armenian Catholics worldwide. [7] However, another source, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith estimated some 40,000 Catholic Armenians in 1847. [8] In 1871 Roswell Dwight Hitchcock estimated 100,000 Catholic Armenians of the total 3-5 million Armenians. [9]

Malachia Ormanian, a historian and an Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Constantinople, estimated 136,400 Armenian Catholics worldwide in his 1911 book: 83,500 (61%) in the Ottoman Empire, 30,000 in the Russian Empire, 15,000 in Europe (Poland, Italy, Austria), 5,000 in Bukovina and Hungary, 1,500 in Egypt and 1,400 in Persia. [10] The 1897 imperial census in Russia found 38,840 Catholic Armenians, [11] while 1914 Ottoman government statistics provided 67,838 as the number of Catholic Armenians. [12] [13]

A 1971 article by United Press International (UPI) estimated the number of adherents of the Armenian Catholic Church at around 100,000. [14]

According to Annuario Pontificio , the annual directory of the Holy See, the church had 142,853 followers worldwide in 1990. The number rose to 736,956 in 2015 according to the same source. [15] However, the number is inflated due to overestimation of Catholics in Eastern Europe and Armenia (supposedly at 600,000). According to the 2011 census in Armenia there were 13,247 Catholics (of any ethnicity) in the country, far below the 600,000 figure. [16]

Independent sources estimate the number of Catholic Armenians in the early 21st century at 150,000. [1] [2]


Headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate in Bzoummar, Lebanon Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Bzoummar, Lebanon (2).JPG
Headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate in Bzoummar, Lebanon
Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs in Gyumri, Armenia Surp Khach Gyumri, Armenia, June 2015.jpg
Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs in Gyumri, Armenia
Armenian Catholic church of the Holy Trinity in Aleppo, Syria Holy Trinity, Aleppo, Syria.jpg
Armenian Catholic church of the Holy Trinity in Aleppo, Syria

The Armenian Catholic Church is broken into Archdioceses, Eparchies, Apostolic Exarchates, Ordinariates for the Faithful of the Eastern Rite and Patriarchal Exarchates, each of which have functions similar to a diocese.

Current hierarchy

The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of the See of Cilicia is the supreme authority of the Armenian Catholic Church. Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan is the current Catholicos-Patriarch.

Following is a list of the jurisdictions with their number of adherents. [17]

Archeparchies (Archdioceses) 199020002017
Patriarchate of Cilicia, also sole Metropolitanate as Armenian Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut, Lebanon (Patriarchal proper archdiocese)15,00012,00012,500
Archeparchy of Aleppo (Halab, Beroa), Syria15,00017,0007,000
Archeparchy of Baghdad, Iraq2,2002,0002,400
Archeparchy of Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey3,7003,6802,500
Archeparchy of Lviv, UkraineN/AN/A0
Suffragan Eparchies in the Patriarch's Metropolitan Province of Cilicia
Ispahan, Iran2,2002,200150
Alexandria (Iskanderiya) actually in Cairo, Egypt1,5001,2876,500
Kameshli ((Al-)Qamishli), Syria4,3034,0003,500
Other Eparchies (dioceses), in the diaspora
Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in the United States of America and Canada 34,00036,00036,000
Eparchy of Sainte-Croix-de-Paris, France30,00030,00035,000
Eparchy of Saint Gregory of Narek, Buenos Aires established in 198916,00016,350
Apostolic Exarchates (missionary, directly dependent on the Holy See)
Armenian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Latin America and Mexico 30,00012,00012,000
Ordinariates for the Faithful of the Eastern Rites
Greece (Athens)650600200
Ordinariate for Romania (Gherla)N/A1,000626
Eastern Europe (except Romania) (Gyumri, Armenia)established in 1991220,000618,000
Patriarchal Exarchates
Damascus, part of Syria9,0008,0004,500
Jerusalem and Amman (Jordan & Holy Land)N/A280500

Titular sees


Titular Metropolitan Archeparchies

Achrida (Ohrid), Pessinus, Traianopolis in Rhodope

Titular Non-metropolitan Archeparchies

Chalcedon, Colonia in Armenia, Mardin, Nisibis of the Armenians, Sebaste, Tarsus

Titular Eparchies

Adana, Amida, Anazarbus, Ancyra, Artvin, Cesarea in Cappadocia, Garin, Kharput, Marasc, Melitene, Mush, Prusa, Tokat, Trapezus


The Armenian Catholic Church produces a number of publications:

The Armenian Catholic Church has presses that publish many liturgical, spiritual books, publications, pamphlets and translations from general Catholic publications.

See also

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    1. 1 2 Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Scarecrow Press. p.  233. ISBN   9780810874503.
    2. 1 2 Tchilingirian, Hratch. "The Armenian Church: A Brief Introduction" (PDF). hygradaran. Armenian Church Library. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 April 2019. According to Vatican sources, some 250,000 Armenians are members of the “Armenian Rite” of the Catholic Church (others put the number closer to 150,000) with communities in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jerusalem and the US.
    3. Roberson, Ronald G. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2016" (PDF). Eastern Catholic Churches Statistics. Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
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    11. Первая Всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Под ред. Н.А.Тройницкого. т.I. Общий свод по Империи результатов разработки данных Первой Всеобщей переписи населения, произведенной 28 января 1897 года. С.-Петербург, 1905. Таблица XII. Распределение населения по вероисповеданиям. online source
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    Armenian Religious Relations and the Roman Catholic Church

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