Armenian Clergy in a procession

The Hierarchy and Governance of the Armenian Church

The office of catholicos, which literally means "universal bishop," is the most authoritative position in the hierarchy of the Armenian Church.  As the Church's global leader, the catholicos resides in Holy Etchmiadzin,--the Mother See of the Armenian Church near Yerevan--and governs approximately 50 diocesan jurisdictions around the world.

The catholicos, formally referred to as Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, is elected by a delegation of both lay and clergy delegates at a specially convened National Ecclesiastical Assembly. The catholicos, together with the Supreme Spiritual Council acting as an advisory body,  carries out his wide-ranging responsibilities of leading the Church in the fatherland and throughout the diaspora,  and provides for the spiritual and physical welfare of his people.

The first catholicos of the Armenian Church was St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian former pagan King Tridates to Christianity and established the Church of Armenia in 301 AD.  Even today,  it is customary to say that the catholicos "occupies" the Throne of St. Gregory.

Supreme Spiritual Council
The Supreme Spiritual Council is the highest executive body of the Armenian Church. In its advisory role to the catholicos, discusses the administrative, organizational, cultural, economic, construction and charity questions of the Armenian Church, as well as those issues connected with native and foreign churches.

The president of the Supreme Spiritual Council is the Catholicos of All Armenians, which is currently His Holiness Karekin II. 

The Vice Chairmanship is shared by the patriarchs of both Jerusalem and Contantinople. Presently, His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoukian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, and His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrop Moutafian, serve in this capacity.

The Council members are elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos. Lay members as well as high-ranking clergy comprise this advisory body, which provides a  diversity of ideas and opinions when addressing various  issues.

Meetings of the Supreme Spiritual Council take place at a minimum of quarterly and on an as- needed basis.

National Ecclesiastical Assembly
The National Ecclesiastical Assembly is the highest legislative body of the Armenian Church. Its main purpose is to hold the elections of the Catholicos of All Armenians. This body also confirms, when necessary, a constitution for the administration of the entire church; examines and resolves ecclesiastical, canonical and other issues that warrant discussion and decision-making; and adopts procedural rules and regulations for its sessions.

The Council of Bishops
The Council of Bishops is an administrative-deliberative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. It makes suggestions on the dogmatic, religious, church, parish and canonical issues to be discussed as agenda items during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.