His Holiness Karekin II,
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

He entered the seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1965, graduating with honors in 1971. For a year after graduation he taught at the seminary. He was ordained as a deacon in 1970 and a monk (celibate priest) in 1972, at which time he received the priestly name Karekin. Shortly thereafter, His Holiness Vasken I (Catholicos of All Armenians, 1956-1994) sent the new priest to Vienna to study theology. In 1975, Fr. Nersissian moved to Germany, where he studied and graduated from Bonn University while serving as pastor to the local Armenian community. Following a brief return to Armenia, he enrolled in postgraduate studies at the Russian Orthodox Academy in Zagorsk, Russia, from which he graduated in 1979.

In March 1980, he entered the service of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, the Armenian Church's most populous diocesan jurisdiction, which incorporates the capital, Yerevan, and the vicinity of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Appointed head of that diocese in June 1983, he was elevated to the rank of Bishop on October 23rd of that year, by the hand of His Holiness Vasken I. Catholicos Vasken granted him the title of Archbishop in November 1992.

During the past decade, Archbishop Nersissian has been a prominent figure in Armenia's religious, social, and cultural life. The charitable missions he has launched have helped his flock in their struggle to build a free and decent society from the physical ruins of the 1988 earthquake, and from the spiritual debris of Armenia's Soviet period. He has been notable for using technology, especially television broadcasts, as a tool of evangelism and outreach. Following the death of Catholicos Vasken I, Archbishop Nersissian was a candidate for the pontifical throne during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly of April 1995, but conceded victory to His Holiness Karekin Sarkissian, who thereafter became Catholicos Karekin I (Catholicos of All Armenians, 1995-1999). The latter, being treated for cancer in New York, appointed Archbishop Nersissian as the Vicar General of Holy Etchmiadzin in November 1998, in which capacity Nersissian served until the late Catholicos' death in June 1999.

He was elected the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians on October 27, 1999, when more than 450 delegates from Armenian Church jurisdictions around the world met in a National Ecclesiastical Assembly at Holy Etchmiadzin, the Church's Mother See, located in the Republic of Armenia. His consecration and enthronement followed on November 4th. As the 132nd in a continuous line of Catholicoi dating back to the Fourth Century, Catholicos Karekin II presides over the Supreme Spiritual Council (the Armenian Church's governing college of bishops), and is the chief shepherd of the world's 7 million Armenian Apostolic Christians.

  • Read the encyclical of January 30, 2003

    Karekin II, Servant of Jesus Christ,

    By the Mercy of God and the Will of the Nation,

    Chief Bishop and Catholicos of All Armenians,

    Supreme Patriarch of the Pan-National Pre-Eminent Araratian See,

    the Apostolic Mother Church of Universal Holy Etchmiadzin

    Christ-bequeathed greetings of love and Pontifical blessings

    to the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia,

    to the Armenian Patriarchates of Holy Jerusalem and Constantinople,

    to the Archbishops, Bishops, Learned Doctors, Priests and Deacons,

    to the Diocesan Delegational Assemblies, Diocesan and Parochial Councils and Officers,

    and to All Beloved Faithful of the Armenian People.


    "To the Right Hand (of St. Gregory the Illuminator) and to Holy Etchmiadzin, the whole of the Armenian Nation is bound."

    (Arakel Davrizhetsi, 17th c.)

    Beloved faithful Armenians in Armenia and in the Dispersion,

    With the crowning jubilee of the 1700 year old Mother See of Armenians - Universal Holy Etchmiadzin, a festive year has begun, which comes through the renewal of spirits, to be the crowning conclusion of the jubilees which opened the current millennium of Armenian life.  From the Throne of the Illuminator, by the merciful Will and the All-abundant grace of God, we declare 2003 as the year of God-built Holy Etchmiadzin in our national-ecclesiastical life.

    Once again our gaze is directed to the faith-building times of the Great Conversion of the Armenians.  Before our eyes, is that night of deep mystery in the year 301, when in Vagharshapat, the capital city of Armenia, where Christianity had been declared the religion of the state, "suddenly there was intense noise, detonation of thunder, and awesome rumble, as the sound of boiling, turbulent waves of the sea and the canopied firmament of the heavenly dwelling opened." (Agathangelos, 5th c.)  The heavens opened and torrents of Divine light flooded the plain of Ararat.  Before our Father of Faith, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the Only-Begotten Son descended, encircled by lights and hosts of angels, and with the hammer held in His All-sustaining Right Hand, "Knocked on the thickness of the vast ground" and drew the gold-anchored "Shoghakat" - Effusion of Light, Holy Etchmiadzin.  Above the light­illustrated image of the sanctuary, the message of the Most High resounded:  "And that place will be the temple of God and a house of beseeching prayers for all the faithful and the seat of the pontificate." (Agathangelos).

    God placed His seal upon our land, positioned the anchor of faith and attached the arch of the Sacred Covenant.  Bowing to the Will of God, having turned their faith of the Descent of the Savior into mortar, our newly converted holy ancestors established the See of the Pontificate of All Armenians, and in the year 303, erected the first edifice of the Mother Cathedral with joyous haste and great awe.  They erected the God-viewing dome, placed the redeeming and  protecting cross on top, which soared high towards the altar-filled gates of heaven opened before Armenian lands.  "Universal Cathedral built for us, which the gates of hell cannot destroy, anointed with oil, river of good news, O adorable Mother, Holy Etchmiadzin." (Paghtasar Dpir, 18th c.)

    On the level plain at the foot of Masis, through Holy Etchmiadzin, the Will of God and the will of the Armenians became one.  Across from the Ark of Noah rested the ark of salvation of the Armenian people - the Only-Begotten Descended Mother See of the Armenian Church; whose light of chrism of the baptismal font, gave new spiritual birth to our people, and became the new lifeblood for the ancient Armenian stock, to live and perpetuate upon our native soil.  Our Christ-sealed faith became one with our identity.  Holy Etchmiadzin became the spiritual Motherland of the Armenians, and kept alive the love and vision in Armenian life, for the reestablishment of lost independent statehood.  In the difficult twists, turns and temptations of history, love and faith in deliverance, emanating from the Mother See, generated hope and strengthened Armenian souls.  They kept the small flower bed of the Armenians cohesive and unanimous, the survival of which, both in the conquered Motherland, as well as far from her on foreign shores, was endangered for centuries.  The greater the calamity, greater still was the protective strength felt from Holy Etchmiadzin.  The light radiating from the Holy Altar of Descent became more visible and kept us warmer the farther we were dispersed.  The light, through the vision of the Descent of God, increased the faith, will and aspiration for a new renaissance among our people.  In all lanterns of Armenian Churches, the "Shoghakat" Light of Holy Etchmiadzin is present, and in all baptismal fonts, the Holy Chrism of the Illuminator is there, distributing the grace of adoption for inheritance of the homeland.  Holy Etchmiadzin is a singular, unconditional sanctity for every Armenian, the vessel to be an Armenian and a Christian.

    "In this sanctuary is the heart of the Armenian Nation - the place of the Descent.  Love Etchmiadzin, enter inside, kiss the point of Descent and you will have kissed the entire expelled nation, dispersed throughout the universe." (Berj Proshian, 19th c.)  This is how we know Holy Etchmiadzin, and this is how we have enabled others to know her.  For seventeen centuries we have known her as the source of strength and the treasury of the Armenian soul; as the love and banner for freedom; as the pride and victory of the Armenian soul.  We know her as our adorable Mother, who unites us together with her tender affection, fortifies and defends us in love.  Mashtots and the ranks of Translators; the Golden, Silver and all "genius-bearing" Armenian ages; Vardan and all of the Vardanank of our history; Avarayr and all of our "struggle for existence" Avarayrs, Sardarapat, which kindled the new dawn of Armenian independence, and the freedom struggle of Artsakh, were all born from the soul of Holy Etchmiadzin.  With this understanding, our forefathers continually have renovated and embellished the Mother Cathedral of the Armenians, and in the likeness of the miraculous vision, in beautiful form and structure, they have preserved Her against the destructive storms of the times.  Far from Holy Etchmiadzin, the Armenian Pontiffs have felt themselves, as Saint Nerses the Graceful felt, banished and inconsolable; because the Armenian soul has always recognized his cradle of faith, his symbol of perseverance and impetus to life, his Mother See:  Holy Etchmiadzin, which descended from the heavens upon the soil of our homeland.  "To the Right Hand and to Holy Etchmiadzin, the whole of the Armenian Nation is bound."

    In 1441, following long-enduring wanderings, by the Will of Providence, the Pontifical See was reestablished in her Only-Begotten Descended location, to keep her flock assembled together and hopeful under times of new tribulations, and to shepherd them to new shores of hope and victory.

    With the joy of the 1700 Anniversary of Holy Etchmiadzin, we extend greetings and invitation to the graceful Incumbents of the Hierarchal Sees of the Armenian Church, to the diligent Diocesan Primates, to the entire devoted spiritual order, and to all of our beloved faithful people.  Today, we are the ones carrying forward the sacred mystery of Holy Etchmiadzin and we are the recipients of her grace, invited to celebrate the 1700 Year Jubilee of the Mother Cathedral of the Armenians.  True to ourselves, true to our Etchmiadzin-sealed souls, with faithful, nation-gathering and homeland-building deeds, let us make renown this great event in Armenian life.  In the example of our forefathers, let us keep well-traveled the path of pilgrimage of Armenians to Holy Etchmiadzin.  Let us touch the stones which have kept the warmth of the prayers of our ancestors, let us feel our roots vibrant with faith, and glorify God with the same love and loyalty, as our grandparents and our fathers, who built Holy Etchmiadzin, who defended Holy Etchmiadzin; so that through us the Mother See of the Armenians always remains bright and radiant, and through her, Armenian life becomes strong and united.  Let us kneel down before the Holy Altar of Descent and say in thanksgiving prayer:  Glory to You, O Lord, Who with the heavenly rays of Your shadow-less light, designed and illustrated the Mother Cathedral of our faith.  Increase Your Grace, which descends upon our land and upon our souls through the "Shoghakat" Light; and bless us, so that we remain steadfast through Holy Etchmiadzin, upon our path of faith which illuminates our national life.  Protect the entire world, our Motherland Armenia and Artsakh, the Armenian Nation and the Armenian Church with all Her Hierarchal Sees, with Your peace and justice. Omnipotent Lord, keep unshaken the Mother See of All Armenians, which You Yourself established, so that she may always be the populous house of prayers and the grace endowed Pontifical See, for "To the Right Hand and to Holy Etchmiadzin, the whole of the Armenian Nation is bound."

    The grace, love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.

    With Blessings,



    Encyclical given on the 30th of January

    In the Year of Our Lord 2003, and in the date of the Armenians 1452

    At the Mother Monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin

    Number 124

    In the Fall of 2003 many members of the Diocese will travel to Yerevan for the anniversary of the Cathedral. Send an email to info@armenianchurch.net is you would like more information.

  • Read the Easter Message




    (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, April 20, 2003)

    "By faith to know Him and the power of His Resurrection" (Phil. 3:10)

    Dearly beloved Armenian people in Armenia, Artsakh and the Dispersion,

    The joy of the Glorious Resurrection of Christ fills Armenian Churches this morning, and from the 1,700 year-old Main Altar of the Mother Cathedral of the Armenians, We proclaim to you with Pontifical love, the Easter greeting "Christ is Risen from the dead!"

    It was a Sunday morning such as this, when in Jerusalem, the Mother of Christ accompanied by pious women, according to custom, went to the sepulcher to anoint with oil the body of Christ placed there three days before.  Arriving at the rock-hewn tomb, they observed with wonder that the large stone closing the entrance had been rolled away.  The voice of the angel resounded to the bewildered souls of the oil-bearing women, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, for He has risen."

    On that day which bore the good news, grace and blessing renewed the universe and the hope of salvation became the path.  From that day, everyone who hears the angelic-voiced tiding of "Christ is Risen from the dead", who acknowledges Christ with faith, knows that the tomb is only the end of earthly life ­ but the beginning of resurrected eternal life.

    Eternal life begins in this world, when the progress of man on earth is led with faith and love toward God; toward the Savior Lord Who became flesh out of His Divine Love, and came to the world for the sake of our salvation, destroyed death on the cross, and granted us life through His Resurrection.

    "By faith to know Him" the Apostle of the Lord exhorts us, because it is faith that makes the presence of the Resurrected Christ recognizable in our lives, transfigures our souls, and fortifies our journeys towards goodness.  From faith is born the love which ties us to God, and the love which establishes brotherhood between men, so that resurrection and life will prevail in our labors, and we will have peace and reconciliation among ourselves and with God.

    Through Apostolic preaching, our forefathers came to know and love the Savior.  They believed that the hope and strength of the Resurrection is a promise to our "small flower bed" of people as well, that the Savior addressed His promise to us, when He said to His Disciples, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."  (Luke 12:32).  We lived in the confidence of the word of the Lord, we withstood the countless afflictions which befell us, through life we conquered the pathways of death.  Our soul, bearing the reflection of the Resurrection, was sealed upon our soil, stones and monasteries, our manuscripts and music; and the hymns glorifying our Lord never ceased emanating from our lips.  Indeed, glory and thanksgiving to the Heavenly One, Who through His redeeming Cross, granted us our victorious spiritual armament ­ the Holy Faith of the Illuminator; and through the new awakening of the same power, ties us to our promised land, and that which stands in her heart, the Holy of Holies, the Only- Begotten Descended Cathedral.

    Dearly Beloved Armenian People, the long paths of our crucifixion have ended with the morning of the Resurrection, and it is the new dawn of the hope of the Resurrection in our free Motherland and our national life.  Gazing to heaven on this Easter morning, we see the gates of God's compassion open before us, a new invitation for resurrected life calls to us ­ to strengthen our individual lives with faith and to renovate and rebuild our collective life.  We have difficulties, and we will have the strength and power to overcome them as well.  Let us look upon our rocks which have become stone-crosses, the domes of our Armenian churches which soar to the skies, and they will speak to us through the lips of our fathers, telling and directing us to be unified for the love of a free homeland and under the all-powerful arms of the Holy Cross; and our solidarity will be our strength.  Today, independent Armenia and Artsakh, more than anything else, need peace; they need our dedication and devoted efforts.  Let us build our home, our village, our city, and our churches on our soil; not only with stones brought from the mountains of our homeland, but also with the love of God which dwells in our hearts, with the legacy of our fathers and the inspiration of our history.  Our homeland will grow stronger with our own hands, and will become the land of the realization of our hopes.  With every good morning, let us bless the day which is beginning in our free lives, let us bless with faith and loyalty, and with the confidence of our awakened soul, let us build the prosperous present-day of the Armenians and the vision of the future, which get their light from the inextinguishable Lantern of the Illuminator.

    Dear Son and Daughter of the Armenian Nation, who has migrated from the homeland and was born in distant lands, it is our Pontifical prayer and wish before the Holy Altar of Descent, that the light of the Glorious Resurrection of the Savior bring rebirth to your Christian faith and renew your oath to remain Armenian.  Remain loyal to our Apostolic Holy Church, sacredly preserve your legacy and transmit it to your children, and do not forget that in one corner of your homeland the graves of your forefathers await your return.

    Wherever we may live, dear Armenian people, whether in the Motherland or far from her, let our soul flourish with the patriotism of being the Children of Ararat, with the strength of the Savior's triumphant love, and the God of our Fathers will lead us to new victories.  Let us vow to remain steadfast children of the Chrism of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Resurrection seal of which is upon our foreheads and we are the adopted of Christ, and our path is "By faith to know Him and the power of His Resurrection".

    With the wondrous tidings of the Holy Resurrection, We convey brotherly greetings from the Mother See of All Armenians to the Incumbents of the Hierarchal Sees of our Church:  to His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia; to His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem; and to His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Moutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople.  We raise our prayers to the Risen Lord to keep unshaken our Apostolic Holy Church with Her Hierarchal Sees, and to protect within His Divine Grace the entire vow-abiding clerical order and all of our beloved faithful people.

    We bring Our Pontifical greeting and blessing to the state leaders of Armenia, headed by President of the Republic of Armenia Mr. Robert Kocharian; and with the hope of the recognition of the right of self-determination for Artsakh, to the President of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh, Mr. Arkady Ghukasian; and to all those who strive for the victory of the just cause of Artsakh.

    With the joy of the good tidings of this morning, We greet and bless the Representatives of the Diplomatic Missions registered in Armenia.

    Dear faithful, before the luminous mystery of the Glorious Resurrection of Christ, let us pray together and ask:  Lord, You Who are the Sun of Justice and the Prince of Peace, enter into the hearts of men through the all-sustaining power of Your Resurrection, grant solace to the bereaved, happiness to the sorrowful, consolation to the mourning, love and reunion to those separated from one another, and encouragement and bravery to those fearful of tribulations.  May Your greeting of Peace spread throughout the whole of the world, especially to those regions of our common home, planet earth ­ where peaceful and stable life is threatened, and man's faith in tomorrow is shaken.

    May the hope, grace and blessing of the Resurrection be with us and the world, today and forever.  Amen.

    Christ is Risen from the dead!

    Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.