The Catholicos-Patriarch of the House of Cilicia
of the Armenian Catholics
I. On the Title Catholicos:

The word ‘Catholicos’ means “the general head” or “general bishop” of a Church.  It can
be considered as equivalent to “universal Bishop.”  This title and rank is much more ancient
than the title ‘Patriarch’ in the Church.
By the end of the third century or by the beginning of the fourth, certain bishops of
important cities or provincial capitals in the Roman empire gained preeminence above other
bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans.  The Ecumenical Councils of the
fourth century recognized the authority of these Metropolitans.
By the fifth century the Bishops of the major cities of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria,
and Antioch gained jurisdiction over the churches of their surrounding cities.  Gradually they
became the heads of each independent regional Church and were called 'Patriarch' which
means ‘common father.’
The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called 'Catholicos.' Thus,
there were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the fifth century.  They were the
Catholicate of the East (Persia), the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia.
                                      -adapted from:  http://malankaraorthodoxchurch

II.  On the Role and Authority of Patriarchs:  

Just as the Pope of Rome sits on the throne of Saint Peter, the Armenian Catholicos-
Patriarch, according to the expression of the ancient historian Saint Movses Khorenats'i,
likewise "sits on the throne of Thaddaeus."  Thus he is "father and head" of the Armenian
Catholic Church.  As such, he maintains the Apostolic Faith which was first preached in
Armenia by Saints Thaddaeus & Bartholomew.
As head of the Armenian Catholic Church, Catholicos Nerses-Bedros XIX, is in full
Communion with the Patriarch of the West, Francis, Pope of Rome -as well as with the
Patriarchs and Bishops of the
autonomous Catholic Churches.  Just as Sts. Thaddaeus and
Bartholomew (who went to Armenia) were in communion with Sts. Peter and Paul (who
went to Rome) and Gregory the Illuminator was in communion with St. Sylvester of Rome,
so today the Catholicos-Patriarch Nerses Bedros maintains communion with the ecumenical
and Catholic Church.  As Saint Peter held a primacy among the other Holy Apostles so also
the Pope of Rome holds a primacy among the Apostles' successors:  the Patriarchs and
Bishops.  Yet this should not diminish or alter the Patriarchs' own God-given apostolic
authority.  
                                                    
        -Rev. Sub-Dn Lazarus W. Der-Ghazarian, M.A.

III.  Vatican II Statements on Patriarchs:

The Second Vatican Council Fathers made some very important statements about the
authority of and honor due to the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches. Thus the Second
Vatican Council Fathers stated:

The patriarchate, as an institution, has existed in the Church from the earliest times
and was recognized by the first ecumenical councils.

By the name Eastern Patriarch, is meant the bishop to whom belongs jurisdiction
over all bishops, not excepting metropolitans, clergy and people of his own territory
or rite, in accordance with canon law and without prejudice to the primacy of the
Roman Pontiff.

By the most ancient tradition of the Church, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches
are to be accorded special honor, seeing that each is set over his patriarchate as
father and head.

The Patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the
patriarchate, including the right of establishing new eparchies and of nominating
bishops of their rite within the territorial bounds of the patriarchate, without
prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman Pontiff to intervene in individual cases.
                         -from:  Orientalium Ecclesiarum (The Eastern Churches, par. 7-9)
"Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  -St. Mt. 18:18
Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Cathedral
of St. Gregory the Illuminator &
St. Elias the Prophet
Catholicos Nerses Tarmouni is the
nineteenth Armenian Patirarch to be
re-united with the successor of
Soorp Bedros, Patriarch of Rome.  
He is thus titled:  Nerses Bedros XIX.
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The Patriarchal Monastery of Bzommar
Home of the Armenian Monks of
Saint Anthony of the Desert
Armenian Martyrs Monument
Armenian Catholic Patriarchate,
Beruit, Lebanon
His Beatitude Stepan Bedros (Stephen Peter) X Azarian,
Catholicos-Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholics.
(1881-1899), surrounded by fellow hierarchs.

On His Beatitude's right is the future Catholicos,
Boghos Bedros (Paul Peter) XI Emmanuelian,
who ascended the Patriarchal throne in 1899.
This painting, from the
St. Gregory Chapel, depicts
the meeting in Rome between
Pope St. Sylvester and
St. Gregory the Illuminator.  
The Roman Emperor,
St. Constantine, and the
Armenian King, St. Tiridates,
look on in approval.  
The rainbow in the
background symbolizes unity
between the Armenian and
Roman Churches.
The Venerable Vartabed
Abbot Mekhitar of Sebastia
Founder of the
Mekhitarist Order