within the Armenian Church
existence of two Catholicosates within the Armenian Church - the Catholicosate
of Etchmiadzin (the Catholicosate of All Armenians), Etchmiadzin, Armenia,
and the Catholicosate of Cilicia, Antelias, Lebanon,- is due to historical
circumstances. In the 10th century, when Armenia was devastated by Seljuks,
many Armenians left their homeland and came to settle in Cilicia where
they re-organized their political, ecclesiastical and cultural life. The
Catholicosate also took refuge in Cilicia. In 1375 the Armenian Kingdom
of Cilicia was destroyed. Cilicia became a battleground for hostile Seljuks,
Mamluks and other invaders. In the meantime Armenia was having a relatively
peaceful time. The deteriorating situation in Cilicia on one hand, and
the growing cultural and ecclesiastical awakening in Armenia on the other,
led the Bishops of Armenia to elect a Catholicos in Etchmiadzin. The latter
was the original seat of the Catholicosate, but it had ceased to function
as Catholicossal See after 485.
In 1441 a new Catholicos was elected
in Etchmiadzin in the person of Kirakos Virapetsi. At the same time Krikor
Moussapegiants (1439-1446) was the Catholicos of Cilicia. Since 1441, therefore,
there have been two Catholicosates in the Armenian Church with equal rights
and privileges and with their respective jurisdictions. The primacy
of honor of the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin has always been recognized
by the Catholicosate of Cilicia
role of the Catholicosate of Cilicia
role of the Cilician Catholicosate has incorporated various dimensions
and spheres of the life of the Armenian people. It is important to identify
some of the major ones:
Throughout its history, and especially in difficult times, the Catholicosate
of Cilicia has always been actively present in the life of the Armenian
people. It has played a leading and significant role particularly in the
educational, cultural and social spheres. After the Genocide it brought
an important contribution to the formation and the organization of the
- Being itself a victim of
the Armenian Genocide, the Cilician Catholicosate played a key role in
the presentation of the Armenian Cause to international circles. It also
helped towards the awareness-building of its own people concerning this
crime against humanity.
- The Catholicosate brought a major
contribution to the development of social service. Not only it encouraged
social projects at the diocesan level, but initiated important social projects,
mainly in Lebanon, Syria and Greece. The orphanage in Jbeil (Bird's Nest),
the Sanatorium, the popular housing project, the Old Peoples' Homes in
Lebanon, Syria and Greece, are directly administered by the Catholicosate.
- The contribution of the Cilician
Catholicosate to the flourishing of the cultural life in the Armenian Diaspora
is significant, indeed. The publishing house of the Catholicosate has each
year published hundreds of titles. An important number of publication funds
have been established; book exhibits and fairs, a great number of conferences,
debates, seminars, cultural meetings and concerts have been organized annually.
The construction of a Museum in 1994 and the establishment of an important
Library are eloquent manifestations of the growing interest of the Catholicosate
in the promotion of the Armenian spiritual and cultural values.
museum treasures are displayed on four floors. They comprise mainly liturgical
sacred relics, vestments and vessels brought from the Catholicosate of
Cilicia, in Sis, illustrated manuscripts, coins, traditional Armenian artworks,
carpets, archeological objects and works by Armenian painters and sculptors.
The masterpieces of this collection are undoubtedly the Gospel of "Partzerpert"
copied and illuminated in Hromgla-Cilicia, in 1248, and "The Bible of Vosgan"
printed in Amsterdam, in 1666.
"Khatchig Babigian" Library has a
rich collection of 80,000 volumes and 2000 old-prints. It has also an important
series of old and new periodicals. This museum-library is dedicated to
the 1700th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Christianity in Armenia.
- The Theological Seminary has played
a pivotal role in the witness of the Catholicosate. 250 teachers, 130 married
priests, 75 vardapets, 30 bishops and archbishops, and the last four Catholicoi
have graduated from the Seminary.
history of our Seminary is inseparably interwoven with the history of the
Armenian people. This is also true with the Armenian Church who has always
kept pace with the rhythm of changing circumstances of the life of the
After the Armenian Genocide in 1915,
the Catholicosate of Cilicia was exiled together with its people from its
centuries-old homeland and in 1930 took refuge in Antelias, Lebanon. One
of the priority concerns of Catholicos Sahak II, has been the foundation
of Seminary. Thus late in 1930, through his untiring efforts a Theological
Seminary was established in Antelias. In the course of time the Seminary
grew qualitatively and quantitatively. All the Catholicoi pay a particular
attention to the Seminary, making it "the heart" and "the backbone" of
the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The Theological Seminary brought
a significant contribution towards the evangelistic, missionary and educational
task as well as to the spiritual renewal of the Armenian Church. Thousands
of people, both clergy and laity, were formed in the Seminary. It was a
very tough responsibility for the Seminary to struggle against the odds
of a Diaspora situation, to wrestle with the challenges of changing times,
and to meet the growing needs and demands of the Armenian people scattered
all around the world. The Antelias Seminary took this challenge with supreme
courage and profound sense of responsibility.
It is with this vision in heart and
perspective in mind, that His Holiness Aram I, immediately after his election
as Catholicos and within the context of his new priorities, gave a particular
attention to the Seminary. His Holiness clearly stated that the Seminary
will remain "a top priority" for him and he will do his utmost to give
a new vitality and efficiency to the activities of the Seminary.
Ecumenism has remained one of the main fields of the work of the Catholicosate.
Since the fifties, its representatives, both clergy and lay people, have
taken an active part in the meetings and conferences of the World Council
of Churches. The ecumenical engagement of the Catholicosate was given a
more organized form after 1962, when it became a member of this world family
of churches. During the General Assembly held in Nairobi in 1975, Bishop
Karekin Sarkissian (the actual Catholicos of Etchmiadzin) was elected a
Vice-Moderator of the Central Committee (a position he held until 1983).
At the last General Assembly in Canberra 1991, another member of the Catholicosate,
Archbishop Aram Keshishian, was elected Moderator of the Central and Executive
Committees (term ending in 1998), thus becoming the first Orthodox, the
first Middle-Easterner and the youngest in age to reach the highest leadership
position in the history of the World Council of Churches. The Catholicosate
sent observers to the Second Vatican Council. The visits of the Catholicoi
to Popes, as well as joint declarations, meetings and consultations with
representatives of the Roman Catholic Church greatly contributed to the
development of brotherly relations and theological dialogue between the
Armenian Church and the Roman Catholic Church on international, regional
and local levels. The relations of the Catholicosate with the churches
of the Middle-East have always been fraternal. As one of the initiators
of the ecumenical movement in the region, the Catholicosate took an active
part in the foundation of the Middle East Council of Churches in 1974.
The Catholicosate has played a key role in promoting the theological dialogue
between the two families of the Orthodox tradition: Eastern and Oriental.
It has had a significant part in the development of a more organized collaboration
among the Oriental Orthodox Churches particularly after the meeting of
the Heads of these Churches in Addis Abeba, in 1965. The Catholicosate
of Cilicia continues with growing impetus and interest its ecumenical relations
with the Anglican Church and the other Churches of the Protestant tradition
as well as with various ecumenical organizations.
Having its headquarters in the Arab world, the Catholicosate of Cilicia
has brought its full participation in the major events of this part of
the world. It has taken part in the struggle for independence of the Arab
countries, mainly in Lebanon and Syria. It has strongly supported the Palestinian
cause and worked for a just, comprehensive and permanent solution of the