Armenian Catholic Church

Armenian Catholic Church

Emblem of the Armenian Catholic Church
Founder Abraham Petros I Ardzivian
Independence 26 November 1742
Recognition Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches
Primate Armenian Patriarch of Cilicia Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan
Headquarters Lebanon
Territory Armenia
Possessions Russia, Iraq, Georgia, France, United States, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Canada, Australia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Ukraine, Belarus, Ethiopia and many others.
Language Armenian
Members 736,956 (2015 Annuario Pontificio)[1]
Bishops meeting in Jerusalem, circa 1880 (note the Roman pallium worn by the archbishop in the centre).

The Armenian Catholic Church (Armenian: Հայ Կաթողիկէ Եկեղեցի, Hay Kat’oġikē Ekeġec’i) 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 sui iuris head of the Armenian Catholic Church is the Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia, and its main cathedral is the Cathedral of Saint Elias and Saint Gregory the Illuminator in Beirut, Lebanon.


After the Armenian Apostolic Church formally broke off communion from the Chalcedonian churches in the 5th century, some Armenian bishops and congregations made attempts to restore communion with the Catholic Church. 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 Roman Catholicism in the absence of any specific Armenian Catholic Church. 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.

The Armenian Catholic community was also previously formed by Armenians living in Poland in 1630s after the union by the Armenian bishop of Leopolis - Nicholas (Polish: Mikołaj) Torosowicz, who established bonds with the Roman 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

Main article: Armenian Rite

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.

Armenian Catholic communities

Apart from Armenia, France and North America (Canada, U.S.A. and Mexico), sizable Armenian Catholic communities exist in Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Turkey.

Armenia, Georgia and Eastern Europe

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-Javakhq live together in Akhaltsikhe and in the nearby villages, as well as in the regions of Akhalkalak 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.

United States and Canada

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 Mkhitarists 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 Mikael 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.[2]


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 Sevre and a convent of Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception runs a school in Marseille


Date Armenian Catholics Territory Source
2015 736,956 Worldwide Annuario Pontificio[1]
2011 13,247 Republic of Armenia 2011 Armenia census[3]
2010 593,459 Worldwide Annuario Pontificio[1]
2000 362,047 Worldwide Annuario Pontificio[1]
1990 142,853 Worldwide Annuario Pontificio[1]
1915 76,500 Ottoman Empire Johannes Lepsius[4]
1911 135,900 Worldwide
Ottoman Empire: 84,500
Russia: 30,000
Europe: 20,000
Persia: 1,400
Malachia Ormanian[5]
1897 38,840 Russian Empire 1897 imperial census[6]
mid-1800s 10,000 Mount Lebanon estimate[7]


Headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate in Bzoummar, Lebanon
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Glendale, California

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.

The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of the See of Cilicia is the supreme authority of the Armenian Catholic Church. Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni is the current Catholicos-Patriarch.

Following is a list of the jurisdictions with their number of adherents.[8]

Archeparchies (Archdioceses) 1990 2000 2008
Patriarchate of Cilicia, also sole Metropolitanate as Armenian Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut, Lebanon (Patriarchal proper archdiocese) 15,000 12,000 12,000
Archeparchy of Aleppo (Halab, Beroa), Syria 15,000 17,000 17,500
Archeparchy of Baghdad, Iraq 2,200 2,000 2,000
Archeparchy of Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey 3,700 3,680 3,650
Archeparchy of Lviv, Ukraine N/A N/A 0
Suffragan Eparchies in the Patriarch's Metropolitan Province of Cilicia
Ispahan, Iran 2,200 2,200 10,000
Alexandria (Iskanderiya) actually in Cairo, Egypt 1,500 1,287 6,000
Kameshli ((Al-)Qamishli), Syria 4,303 4,000 4,000
Other Eparchies (dioceses)
Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in the United States of America and Canada 34,000 36,000 36,000
Eparchy of Sainte-Croix-de-Paris, France 30,000 30,000 30,000
Eparchy of Saint Gregory of Narek, Buenos Aires established in 1989 16,000 16,000
Apostolic Exarchates (missionary, directly dependent on the Holy See)
Armenian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Latin America and Mexico 30,000 12,000 12,000
Ordinariates for the Faithful of the Eastern Rites
Greece (Athens) 650 600 350
Ordinariate for Romania (Gherla) N/A 1,000 806
Eastern Europe (except Romania) (Gyumri, Armenia) established in 1991 220,000 490,000
Patriarchal Exarchates
Damascus, part of Syria 9,000 8,000 6,500
Jerusalem and Amman (Jordan & Holy Land) N/A 280 800
TOTAL 142,853 362,047 700,806


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


    1. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2015" (PDF). Catholic Near East Welfare Association.
    2. "Pope Names New Eparch for Armenian Catholics In US And Canada". USCCB News Release. 21 May 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25.
    3. "Population Census 2011: Population (urban, rural) by Ethnicity, Sex and Religious Belief" (PDF). National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia.
    4. Lepsius, Johannes (1916). Bericht uber die Lage des Armenischen Volkesim der Türkei (in German). Potsdam. pp. 298–303.
    5. Ormanian, Malachia (1911). Հայոց եկեղեցին և իր պատմութիւնը, վարդապետութիւնը, վարչութիւնը, բարեկարգութիւնը, արաողութիւնը, գրականութիւն, ու ներկայ կացութիւնը [The Church of Armenia: her history, doctrine, rule, discipline, liturgy, literature, and existing condition] (in Armenian). Constantinople. pp. 259–267.
    6. 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
    7. Agadjanian, Dr Alexander (28 October 2014). "Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice". Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. via Google Books.
    8. "The Eastern Catholic Churches 2-008" (PDF). Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

    External links

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