The Differences Between Byzantine & Armenian Christianity

The Differences Between Byzantine & Armenian Christianity

Although both the Byzantines and the Armenians were Christian, the types of Christianity they professed had important differences that led to a lack of recognition and tensions between the two groups and a considerable part of their relationship, both internally and in foreign relations, was tied to religion. These tensions and the lack of compromise were an essential part to Byzantine-Armenian relations for centuries and resulted in a lasting separation between the Orthodox and Armenian Churches.

Differences in Beliefs

As with many Christian denominations, there are actually only a few critical differences. The main beliefs, such as Jesus being the Son of God, life everlasting, and communion, were for the most part the same. The major disagreements between the Armenian and Orthodox Churches can, for the sake of medieval theology, be broken down to two major points of contention. First, the Armenians rejected the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which was recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope in Rome, although many in Syria and Egypt opposed it. Second, the Armenian Church maintained that it was an autonomous church, which ran counter to Byzantine opinions on the matter. Although there were other issues, such as the Armenian use of unleavened bread and unmixed wine for the sacrament, these two matters were the main two points of contention.

The Armenians rejected the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which was recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople, & the Armenian Church maintained that it was autonomous.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council, held at Chalcedon, occurred in 451 CE. No Armenian delegates were present at the Council, due to a national disaster at the Battle of Avarayr, just a few weeks before, where many leading Armenians had been slain by the Sassanid Persian army. The Council of Chalcedon stipulated the nature of Christ, a question that had led to religious divisions and disputes well before even the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 325 CE. The Fourth Ecumenical Council decided that Christ had two distinct natures, one human and one divine, perfectly united in hypostasis with neither being superior or inferior. Naturally, any standpoint that was different than this was deemed heretical. The decision received much resentment in the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire, where many locals believed in the Christological position of Monophysitism.

Monophysites believe that Christ has one nature, where divinity and humanity are perfectly united. Among these dissenting people were the Armenians. The lack of Armenian participation did not incline the Armenians to agree to the Council's decisions either, as their voices and concerns had not been heard. In addition, the presiding emperor, Marcian (r. 450-457 CE), rejected Armenian requests for aid against the Persians. Two of Marcian's successors, Zeno (r. 474-491 CE) and Anastasius I (r. 491-518 CE), even disavowed the Council of Chalcedon, further hurting its reputation, although it was reaffirmed under Justin I (r. 518-527 CE). The Armenians recognized the Third Ecumenical Council, at Ephesus in 431 CE, as the last legitimate one, not recognizing the Council of Chalcedon or any succeeding councils that are considered ecumenical in the Orthodox tradition. This standpoint had been originally stated at the First Council of Dvin in 506 CE, and later reaffirmed in 554 CE.

The second major issue was the autonomy of the Armenian Church. Armenia was the first Christian nation in the world, St. Gregory the Illuminator having converted King Tiridates (Trdat) the Great (r. 287-330 CE) in the early fourth century. St. Gregory himself was the bone of contention. Leontios, Archbishop of Caesarea, had consecrated St. Gregory, and the Byzantines believed that this made him and those that he converted beholden to the diocese of the Archbishop of Caesarea. The Armenians argued that although St. Gregory had converted their king, the tradition of Armenian Christianity was actually much older, having been started by the conversions of the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew back in the few decades after the death of Christ. This apostolic origin, in their eyes, gave them an inviolable right to an autonomous church, since their church had in fact been created around the same time that the first Christian missionaries ventured outside of Palestine.

Another point, made by the 7th-century Armenian historian Sebeos, is that Jesus taught the apostles; therefore, it was perfectly fine that St. Gregory was taught in Caesarea, as education is an essential part of Christianity, not a subservient one (Sebeos 114-132). For the Armenians, preserving the autonomy of their national church was also tied to the preservation of their political autonomy and ethnic identification. To the Byzantines, it was important to have the Armenian Church recognize the superiority of the Archbishopric of Caesarea so that it would technically be under the dominion and influence of the Byzantine Empire. When the Armenians were under Persian or Arab control, they were allowed greater leeway in their ecclesiastical administration, and, of course, the Armenian Church was given full support by the independent Armenian states of the 9th, 10h, and early 11th centuries. Although this had always been a contentious subject between the Byzantines and Armenians, it was especially strained during the periods of Byzantine rule over Armenia, in the 7th and 11th centuries. This was where religious tensions bubbled to the surface and impacted the failures of Byzantium during those centuries.

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In exchange for helping him retake the Sassanid throne, Khosrow II (r. 590, 591-628 CE) had ceded most of Armenia to Emperor Maurice (r. 582-602 CE). It was under the Heraclian Dynasty (r. 610-695, 705-711 CE), however, that the Byzantines became most directly involved in Armenian religion for the first time. Heraclius (r. 610-641 CE) had discussed ecclesiastical union with Armenian clergymen when he was in Armenia during his campaigns against the Persians, and once the Byzantine reconquest of the region was complete, he opened up more extensive negotiations. In 632 CE, Heraclius went to Theodosiopolis and reached an agreement with the Armenian Catholicos Ezr at the Council of Karin that resolved some minor differences between the Armenian and Orthodox Churches, removing the additional Armenian part of the Trisagion, one of the hymns of the Divine Liturgy, and moving the Armenian celebration of Christmas back to the Orthodox date of 25 December. In 632 CE, the Greeks and Armenians celebrated Christmas mass together because of this change.

Heraclius also settled on a compromise formula, which became known as Monothelitism, that he hoped would appease the Armenians while not directly ignoring the rulings of the Council of Chalcedon. Monothelitism was a Christological doctrine that taught that Christ had two natures, like the Council of Chalcedon's position, but had one will, similar to the singular nature proposed by the Monophysites. It was created to settle the question once and for all so that all Byzantine subjects could cooperate and strengthen the Byzantine defenses against the new enemy starting to emerge from the sands of Arabia.

Many Armenian monks and bishops in the east did not accept the actions of Ezr, and some no longer honored him as catholicos, harshly criticizing his decision. The Armenian Council of Dvin officially renounced Ezr's agreement with Heraclius in 645 CE, again only recognizing the first three ecumenical councils. The agreement was most likely only agreed upon in the first place because of Armenian fear of Byzantine repercussions or because Ezr was convinced by Heraclius' compromise agreement, either by conviction or bribe. Once the Arabs had invaded the country, they greatly supported the concept of an Armenian Church, as it created a rift between the Byzantines and Armenians.

Monothelitism was resented by most of the Armenians, now the only real Monophysite population left under Byzantine rule after the fall of Syria and Egypt to the Muslims. Monothelitism was also disliked by the Orthodox Byzantines as a dilution of the true creed of the Church. The ethnic and religious animosities between Greeks and Armenians were only inflamed by Monothelitism, which created division between the royal house and both its Byzantine and Armenian subjects, inhibiting a strong defense of the Byzantine Empire, especially in Armenia. The issue lingered during the reign of Constans II (r. 641-668), despite Constans issuing a Type, which tried to shove the issue under the rug by banning everyone in the empire from even discussing the matter of Monothelitism. A weak understanding between the churches was again achieved when Constans entered Dvin with the Byzantine army in 652 CE, forcing a union of the churches. Monothelitism was finally turned over by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 681 CE, which reaffirmed the Council of Chalcedon's verdict on Christ's nature. It was briefly resurrected under Emperor Philippikos Bardanes (r. 711-713 CE) in 711 CE, but was heavily resented by nearly everyone and did not survive Bardanes' downfall two years later.

Later Reunification Talks

Although it had been an utter failure, Monothelitism was an attempt at compromise between the Orthodox and Armenian Churches. Few attempts at compromise were made after the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 681 CE. In 730 CE, Germanos, the Patriarch of Constantinople, tried to approach the Armenians, but these talks disintegrated due to the rise of iconoclasm. Iconoclasm, the best known of the many Byzantine religious conflicts, was over the question of whether icons could be used as intermediaries in Christianity or whether they constituted a type of idolatry. Lasting from 726 to 843 CE, iconoclasm attracted all of the attention of church officials, putting any sort of talks with Armenia on the sidelines for over a century.

These talks would begin again in earnest under the aegis of Patriarch Photios in the 9th century. Photios, an ethnic Armenian, sent letters to the Armenian Catholicos Zacharias and to the then Armenian prince Ashot I (r. 884-890 CE) hoping to resume talks on church unification. In one letter to Ashot I, Photios purposefully adjusts historical accuracy to placate the Armenians and hopefully create an atmosphere of compromise and openness in doctrinal discussions between the Byzantines and Armenians. The supposed discovery of the relics of three of the most celebrated saints in the Armenian Church, St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. Hripsime, and St. Gayane, was also a gesture of reconciliation and recognition towards the traditions of the Armenians. The Armenians already had the relics of these saints in Armenia, and they had been venerated for years, so the announcement was ignored. The action, however, was important for showing a gesture of conciliation and respect to the Armenians, something that had mostly been lacking in previous talks on church union.

The Council of Ŝirakawan came together to discuss Christological issues in 862 CE, where John, the Metropolitan of Nicaea, met with Catholicos Zakaria, many leading Armenian clergymen, and even the commander-in-chief of Armenia, Ashot Bagratid, later Ashot I. Although the talks ultimately came to nothing, as the Armenians and Byzantines simply agreed to disagree, it was a real effort towards interchurch dialogue, directed by the honest intentions of Photios, as well as the interests of Ashot I and Zakaria in increasing Armenian influence in the Caucasus, and not overshadowed by Byzantine threats or saber-rattling. Any chance of reopening talks during Photios' second stint as Patriarch was dashed by the death of Catholicos Zakaria and a lack of more conciliatory counterparts in Armenia with which to open talks. In the end, there was a modus vivendi between the two peoples, coexisting peacefully and quite amicably for nearly a century before tensions began to bubble up again.

Failure to Compromise

The period after Emperor Basil II's (r. 976-1025 CE) death, between 1025 and 1071 CE, became the most oppressive period for Armenians in Byzantine history. With the conquests of the Armenian states before and during this period, the Greek clergy started to insist on Armenian conversions to Orthodoxy. Without an ethnically Armenian state to defend them, the Armenians were left to handle their tenuous situation in the Byzantine Empire on their own. Emperor Constantine IX (r. 1042-1055 CE) kept two Armenian Catholikoi, Petros and Khatchik II, in Constantinople as virtual prisoners. Constantine IX also tried to have the position of Armenian Catholicos abolished entirely and had Byzantine soldiers torture Armenians in Sebastia to uncover the whereabouts of church wealth. All of these actions led to the deep Armenian resentment against the Byzantines.

The situation for the Armenians became so bad that Syrian Patriarch Michael the Great, in the following century, said that the evil influence of Satan must have caused the Byzantines to do such terrible things and the Patriarch of Constantinople to order the trampling underfoot of Armenian liturgical texts and holy oil (Michael the Great, 175). Although there was widespread state-directed persecution, there is no mention in any primary source of an attempted mass conversion of all Armenians, especially not the large Armenian contingent in army or the ethnically Armenian Byzantine aristocracy.

Neither the Byzantines nor the Armenians gave much credence to the religious arguments of the other & neither one would really budge.

The elimination of the Armenian Church theoretically would serve Byzantium well. It would remove a source of Armenian national identity and affirm religious orthodoxy throughout Byzantium. Although political considerations were, of course, important, it is important to remember how important religious beliefs were in the Middle Ages, and that the Byzantines had no small interest in bringing the Armenians into the Orthodox fold. It is true that any chance of discussion would almost immediately break down on the intransigence of religious beliefs, but this obstinacy was not just on the part of the Byzantines. Neither the Byzantines nor the Armenians gave much credence to the religious arguments of the other, and neither one would really budge on their own stance, preventing any sort of compromise agreement.

Armenians, like every people, had multiple aspects, and this was certainly true for religion. The Armenians were guilty of religious prejudice just like the Byzantines. The Armenian historian Matthew of Edessa ridiculed Greek religious practices, such as their date for Easter, and blames the mistakes of the Orthodox Church for a multitude of political and natural disasters (Matthew of Edessa, 41-42). Byzantine soldiers under Constans II complained of disrespect by the local Armenians and the anathemas against them by the Armenian clergy. At other points, however, they could be surprisingly amenable, such as when Catholicos Nerses III invited Constans to see the newly completed Church of St. Gregory.

Above all, the Armenians steadfastly and stubbornly defended the autonomy of their church. Catholicos Khatchik I defended those Armenians that lived in the Byzantine Empire against the encroachment of Greek clergy at the end of the 10th century. In fact, the Armenian Catholicoi were generally known for being tough on matters of religion, Khatchik II maintaining his Monophysite beliefs even in the face of Byzantine persecution, as did several other Catholikoi that were taken captive by the Byzantines. Armenian historians took a certain pride in describing how fellow Armenians went to Constantinople and refuted all of the questions of leading Orthodox clergymen and emperors. Matthew of Edessa mentions an Armenian vardapet, a highly educated Armenian churchman, visiting Constantinople at the behest of John I Tzimiskes (r. 969-976 CE), perfectly refuting the questions of the church doctors in the Hagia Sophia. Gagik II of Armenia (r. 1042-1045 CE) does a similarly laudatory job when arguing on behalf of the beneficent treatment of Armenians to Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059-1067 CE).


The overarching theme between the Armenians and Byzantine Orthodox was religious intolerance on both sides. Of course, there were exceptions. The churches occasionally had more amicable relations, such as the attempt at compromise at the Council of Ŝirakawan in 862 CE, and both churches agreed on the heretical nature of groups such as the Paulicians and Tondrakians. The Armenian historian Ghevond even lauded Leo III (r. 717-741 CE) for defending Christianity in a letter to Caliph Umar, despite the fact that Leo was an Orthodox Christian. This is exemplary of a theme present throughout this period: for the Armenians, Byzantine rule was preferable to domination by a Muslim power. Many Byzantines, when faced with a similar choice of rule by a different Christian sect or Muslims, expressed the sentiment supposedly stated by the Megas Doux Loukas Notaras, that it was better to see the turban of the Turk ruling in the City than the Latin mitre. Not so for the Armenians. Despite the generally religiously intolerant atmosphere of medieval Byzantium, where heresy was indistinct from treason, most Armenians readily supported the Byzantines over the Muslims. Some Armenians even converted by choice after immigrating to Byzantium, many times to achieve a better position in society.

The tensions and conflicts that stemmed from the differences between the Byzantine Orthodox Church and the Armenian Church were nonetheless vital factors in Byzantine-Armenian relations. This difference helped to preserve Armenian culture over the centuries, but also inhibited a closer relationship between the two peoples. In the end, religious differences would greatly contribute to the final breakdown of Byzantine-Armenian relations and help guide the split between churches that has existed up to today.

Calvinism Vs. Arminianism

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One of the most potentially divisive debates in the history of the church centers around the opposing doctrines of salvation known as Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism is based on the theological beliefs and teaching of John Calvin (1509-1564), a leader of the Reformation, and Arminianism is based on the views of Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609).

After studying under John Calvin's son-in-law in Geneva, Jacobus Arminius started out as a strict Calvinist. Later, as a pastor in Amsterdam and professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, Arminius' studies in the book of Romans led to doubts and rejection of many Calvinistic doctrines.

In summary, Calvinism centers on the supreme sovereignty of God, predestination, the total depravity of man, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints.

Arminianism emphasizes conditional election based on God's foreknowledge, man's free will through prevenient grace to cooperate with God in salvation, Christ’s universal atonement, resistible grace, and salvation that can potentially be lost.

What exactly does all this mean? The easiest way to understand the differing doctrinal views is to compare them side by side.

Reader Interactions

Comments ( 7 )

I am Roman Catholic, but I must admit that I feel very welcome, and feel "at home," in Russian Orthodox Churches. When I visited Saint Petersburg, Russia, I was deeply touched by the solemnity and intricacy of the architecture, and the stunning beauty of the icons. Saint Isaac's Cathedral, with its Golden Dome, is unforgettable. And there is a strong undercurrent of revived spirituality and faith among Russians who have been renewing their wedding vows in Church, ever since glasnost and the demise of atheistic communism.

Religious doctrinal differences, like "filioque" and "Immaculate Conception," will probably always persist. But the Spirit of Christ is clearly present in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and our similarities certainly outnumber our differences by far.

The Orthodox and Catholic Churches were one and the same until they separated from one another in 1054 mainly over the role of the Pope.

There are very few theological differences. The main difference is that the Orthodox Churches ( use the Byzantine Rite ( and the Catholic Church use the Roman or Latin Rite.

Another difference is the Filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, the original which the Orthodox follow is
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father."
And the Catholic revision is:
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son."

Pope John Paul II said of the Orthodox Churches in Orientale Lumen, "A particularly close link already binds us. We have almost everything in common."

Most Byzantine Catholics were at one time Orthodox, not in communion with Rome, but in communion with the rest of Eastern Orthodoxy. Owing largely to political situations with the breakdown of the Byzantine Empire and the ascendancy of Moscow, some churches decided to unite with Rome – the Union of Brest was one of these occurrences.

Byzantine Catholics retain the rites that they had as Orthodox, but have accepted the Pope of Rome as their leader, not the Patriarch or Archbishop that they once had, and such doctrines as the infallibility of the Pope.

great gig in the sky says

The Byzantine Catholic Church is a Greek Catholic group that is in communion with Rome., but are autonomous. The Russian Orthodox is in Communion with the Russian Church and recognizes the Patriarch of Moscow as leader..
Are you Syrian or Armenian? This is the last time I have seen these type of Christians. In Lebanon and Syria. Although there are some where I live.
I dig the crazy looking but interesting crosses on the churches.

It is location and tradition of Christianity. Catholicism has a single Bishop over the group who commands the people. In Orthodoxy a group is over the people. The two traditions don't have the same Bible canon – that is religious books or interpretation of passages.

Between Roman Catholic and Byzantine Catholic, the difference is only in some of the celebrations, there's no difference in doctrine.
Between Russian Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic ,the difference is political, there's no difference in doctrine.

There are three main branches of Christianity: Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic. Russian Orthodox Christians are Orthodox Christians, while Byzantine Catholics are Catholics, just like you.

Byzantine Catholics are considered in full union with the Roman Catholic church, but they use the liturgical rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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The Other Catholics: A Short Guide to the Eastern Catholic Churches

As millions watched the funeral for Pope John Paul II, many were confused by the concluding Panakhyda celebrated not in Latin, but in Greek and Arabic by hierarchs in black hoods, turbans, crowns, and unusual vestments. Was this not the responsibility of the cardinals? And were those clerics even Catholic?

The answer may surprise you, as Catholics are generally unaware that they have millions of coreligionists who are not themselves part of the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, even the term "Roman Catholic" isn't quite right it was actually a derogatory label assigned to us by Anglican Protestants, trying to legitimize their own use of the term "Catholic" over and against that foreign Church loyal to the pope of Rome.

In point of fact, the Catholic Church directly under the jurisdiction of Rome is properly and canonically termed the Latin Church. All official Church documents simply use the term, "Catholic Church." And contrary to popular belief, most of the day-to-day work preformed by the Holy Father is not in his role as pope and pastor of the Universal Church but in his position in the Latin Church as the bishop of Rome and the patriarch of the West.

So who are these "other" Catholics? They have their own hierarchies and liturgies, as well as their own distinct apostolic lineages. They may look and act like Eastern Orthodox churches, but they recognize the pope of Rome as the head of the visible Church on earth and have suffered for the cause of that unity.

Meet the Catholic Churches. There are more of them than you think.

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

Antiminsion: A rectangular cloth with an icon of the tomb of Christ, consecrated by the bishop and without which no sacrament can be preformed.

Antidoron: Blessed but unconsecrated bread given to all at the end of the liturgy.

Chrismation: Roughly, the Eastern equivalent of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Council of Chalcedon: Convened in 451, the council fathers affirmed "Christ in two natures of one person without mixture, without change, without separation and without division." This definition was contrary to the traditional Alexandrian theology of "One incarnate nature of Christ." The council also established Constantinople as ranking second only to Rome and ahead of Alexandria and Antioch.

Council of Lyons II: An ecumenical council held in 1274 with the aim of ending disputes with the Greek Church. It added the words "and the Son" to the Nicene Creed, which resulted in its rejection by a Greek Council in Constantinople in 1277.

Council of Nicea: Inviting bishops from across the world in 325, the emperor Constantine hoped to settle the main disputes separating the faithful. The heresies of Arius were condemned and the Divinity of Christ was affirmed as being of the same substance as that of the Father (Arius claimed that Jesus was a creation of the Father, and was not Himself God) the date for the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter) was set according to the solar calendar and the council formally established the primacy of the patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch.

Divine Liturgy: The Eastern eucharistic service equivalent to the Mass.

Dormition of Mary: Roughly, the Eastern equivalent of the Assumption.

Ecclesia sui iuris: Latin term for autonomous Churches of their own rightful existence.

Eparch or Hierarch: The Eastern equivalent of a bishop.

Eparchy: The Eastern equivalent of a diocese.

Exarch: A bishop one rank below a patriarch.

Filioque: The Latin term "and from the Son" inserted into the Nicean Creed by the Latin Church in the year 1274. Considered by the Orthodox a major cause of theological division.

Great Fast:Eastern term for Lent, which for Eastern Churches begins on the Monday before Ash Wednesday (the 40 days are counted differently).

Great Vespers: Non-eucharistic Saturday evening service (does not count toward the Sunday obligation).

Greek Catholic: An outdated term for Byzantine Catholic.

Icon: A two-dimensional image written according to strict guidelines and venerated as would be the relic of a saint.

Iconostasis: An icon-adorned screen separating the altar from the church proper.

Metropolitan: Roughly, the Eastern equivalent of an archbishop.

Myrovannya: Slavic term for a festal anointing with blessed oil.

Mysteries: Roughly, the Eastern term for sacraments.

Patriarch: The highest-ranking bishop. The pope, for example, is the patriarch of the West.

Panakhyda: An Eastern requiem or memorial service.

Paraklesis: A service for the intercession of the Lord, the Mother of God, and the saints.

Pascha: Eastern term for the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter), derived from the term Passover.

Prosphora: Eastern term for the bread used for the host.

Raso or Ryassa: Eastern equivalent of a cassock.

Rite: A liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony of a distinct people manifested in a Church sui iuris.

Uniat or Uniate: A derogatory term for an Eastern Church in communion with Rome.

Zeon: Boiling water added to the chalice representing the Holy Spirit and the water from the side of Christ.

According to the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the bishop of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity. The other Catholic Churches are not merely Catholics with papal permission to use different liturgies. They were also founded by the apostles and are particular, autonomous Churches of their own rightful existence (sui iuris). Any individual Catholic may freely attend and receive the sacraments in any of them. After all, Catholic is Catholic.

Because we believe in "one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church," some might object, "There is only one Church, so how can we speak of many ‘Churches?'" It's helpful to consider an analogy used by the Church Fathers: While there are three distinct Persons who share the One Divine Essence, there are likewise many autonomous individual Churches that make up the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. As it is with the Triune Godhead, we must be careful not to blur true and important distinctions of the individuals in order to emphasize their unity.

When Christ founded His Church, He commissioned the apostles to go out into the world to preach and baptize. Most Catholics are familiar with the founding of the see of Rome by Peter. The primacy of that Church was sealed with the blood of Peter and Paul, and the succession of bishops continues to the present day. What many do not know is that the other apostles themselves founded churches, and that their own successions of bishops continue as well.

As presently defined, there are 24 Catholic Churches that can be grouped into eight different rites. A rite is a liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony of a distinct people manifested in a Church. While each Catholic Church may have its own rite or customs, in general, there are only eight major rites. History, language, misunderstandings, nationalism, and basic human weakness have resulted in the current communion of 24 Churches.

With a few exceptions, the Eastern Catholic Churches result from incomplete reunions with the Orthodox Churches. In those instances, large numbers of bishops and faithful of the Orthodox mother Churches either held back or later rejected union with Rome. Today, many Orthodox are fearful of losing their distinct traditions in a world dominated by the Latin Church. Making matters worse, some of the Eastern Catholic Churches have adopted Latin customs and haven't been very good examples of how union with Rome should work. This is tragic, since the traditions of these Churches are themselves apostolic and help preserve the catholicity of the Church with their own unique development of the gospel message. For example, unlike a good Latin parish, in a traditional Eastern Catholic parish you won't find musical instruments, statues, rosaries, or stations of the cross. Indeed, the priest may well have a wife and children, and the church might be without pews or kneelers. In some circumstances, even the Bible might have a larger canon and include Third and Fourth Maccabees. Unity does not mean uniformity.

The following is a brief survey of each of the 24 sui iuris Catholic Churches all of which are in full communion with Rome. Parishes can be found throughout the United States and Canada. They are grouped by rite and include brief descriptions, along with an estimate of their current membership numbers. Some of these Churches are headed by metropolitans or major archbishops who are independently elected and then confirmed by the pope. The Patriarchal Eastern Catholic Churches elect and consecrate their own patriarch completely independent of the pontiff letters of official communion are exchanged after the installation. Other Churches simply submit a list of eligible candidates to Rome for consideration.

A final note: Any discussion of Eastern Catholicism necessarily involves ecclesiastical language alien to Latin Catholics. See the sidebar for definitions of important Eastern Church terms.

1. The Patriarchal Latin Catholic Church
Rite: Latin
Membership: 1,070,315,000

There may have once been other Western Catholic Churches, but over time, they were absorbed into the direct jurisdiction of the Latin Church. In response to Protestantism, the Latin Church consolidated the various Western practices into what became known as the Tridentine Rite.

Some variation still exists in the Latin Church: The Mozarabic Rite continues in Toledo, Spain, and the Ambrosian Rite survives around Milan even into Switzerland. The Bragan, Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian Rites were abandoned after Vatican II in favor of the revised Latin Rite.

2. The Patriarchal Armenian Catholic Church
Rite: Armenian
Membership: 368,923

The Armenian Church is a daughter of the New Testament Church of Caesarea, and Thaddaeus and Bartholomew were its founding apostles. Catholics there suffered persecution until the conversion of King Tridates IV made Armenia the first Christian state in history. The missionary work of St. Gregory the Illuminator resulted in an alphabet and translations of Greek and Syrian texts. The Armenian Rite is used exclusively by this Church and is related to both Greek and Syrian Christianity with some Latinization since the Crusades.

While Armenians attended the first three ecumenical councils, they weren't represented at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which condemned their faith in St. Cyril's definition of "One nature of the Word of God incarnate." Armenians formally accused the Byzantine and Latin Churches of the Nestorian heresy in the year 555.

Until the Muslim conquests, Byzantine emperors attempted to impose reunion on the Armenians with some success. Nevertheless, the Armenian Church continued to develop independently with its identity as a people centered on its own language and ecclesial body.

When the Byzantines pushed back the Muslims in 862, they again attempted reunion, only to be rebuffed. Serious discussion with the Byzantine Church began in 1165, but the Armenians established union with the Latin Crusader states in 1198. This union wasn't recognized by those outside of Cilicia. And while Armenians were present at the Council of Florence in 1439, it had no lasting results. Finally, in 1742, Pope Benedict XIV confirmed a former Armenian apostolic bishop as Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia.

The vicious persecution and genocide in Turkey at the end of World War I decimated the Armenians, and the Church was later brutally suppressed under communism. Only with independence in 1991 have communities of Armenian Catholics begun to resurface.

3. The Patriarchal Coptic Catholic Church
Rite: Alexandrian
Membership: 242,513

The Egyptian Church was founded by the apostle Mark a gospel writer and disciple of Peter martyred around 63 A.D. His see was the first Church to develop a strong centralized hierarchy, and the succession from Mark continues to this day. The term Coptic is Arabic, derived from the Greek word for Egyptian. Interestingly enough, the Alexandrian patriarch is the only other patriarch to have the title of pope, and until the Council of Chalcedon, the see of Mark was second in primacy after Rome.

Like the Armenians, the Coptic Church rejected the Council of Chalcedon out of fidelity to St. Cyril of Alexandria's doctrine of "One incarnate nature of Christ" though there were also political issues regarding their opposition to growing Byzantine domination. Persecutions intended to force acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon only reinforced their resistance. Eventually a succession of Byzantine popes had a small following in the city of Alexandria, and the majority native Coptic popes resided in the desert monastery of St. Marcarius.

After the Arab invasion in 641, the Coptic Church went into decline. Islamic rule brought persecution as well as some periods of relative freedom. The Church has continued to grow, despite recent attacks by Islamic militants and the exodus of those faithful looking for a better life in the West.

While the Coptic Church attended the Council of Florence and agreed to union, it had no concrete results. Other attempts at reunification occurred in 1582 and 1814 but were also unsuccessful. During these failed attempts, many Coptic bishops and faithful did enter union with Rome. For this reason, the Coptic Catholic Church was organized in 1741 when the Coptic bishop of Jerusalem became Catholic. In 1895, Pope Leo XIII of Rome reestablished the patriarchate of Alexandria for the Coptic Catholic Church.

Monasticism began in the Egyptian desert. While there are no Coptic Catholic monasteries to rival those of the Coptic Orthodox, there are religious orders modeled on Western communities involved in educational, medical, and charitable activities.

4. The Ethiopian Catholic Church
Rite: Ge'ez
Membership: 196,853

The Ge'ez Ethiopian Rite is a variation of the Alexandrian Coptic Rite with Syriac and Jewish influence. Judaism was practiced by some Ethiopians before the arrival of Christianity, and pocket communities of Jewish Ethiopians still exist. The Church there is unique in retaining circumcision, dietary laws, and both Saturday and Sunday Sabbath.

When Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity in the fourth century, St. Athanasius of Alexandria ordained the bishops for the Ethiopians. Later, in 480, those who opposed the Council of Chalcedon fled to Ethiopia from Rome, Constantinople, and Syria and evangelized the pagans they found there.

From the time of Athanasius, Ethiopian bishops were routinely appointed by the Coptic patriarch. In 1948, Emperor Haile Selassie reached an agreement with the Coptic Church to establish an autonomous Ethiopian patriarch. And so, Ethiopian Orthodoxy became the state religion until the 1974 communist revolution.

In 1439, Pope Eugenius IV sent a letter to the Ethiopian emperor inviting him to unity with the Catholic Church, but it was rejected. A century later, under attack from the Muslims, the emperor requested military aid from the Portuguese. This led to Pope Gregory XV's appointment of a Portuguese Jesuit as patriarch of the Ethiopian Church in 1626. Sadly, union lasted only ten years after the forced Latinization of the liturgy, customs, and discipline resulted in open bloodshed.

Catholic missionary activity resumed during the Italian occupation of Eritrea and Ethiopia, but the current structure of the Ethiopian Catholic Church wasn't established until 1961.

5. The Patriarchal Antiochian Syrian Maronite Catholic Church
Rite: West Syrian Maronite
Membership: 3,106,792

Unique among the Eastern Churches, the Maronite Church is entirely Catholic with no corresponding Orthodox Church it has never broken union with Rome. The Maronite Rite is of West Syrian origin but has been influenced by the East Syrian and Latin traditions. The Eucharist is a variation of the Syriac liturgy of St. James. Notably, this Church maintains the Eucharistic narrative in Aramaic the actual language of Christ.

The Maronites trace their origin to a group of disciples of the hermit St. Maron and their founding of a great monastery midway between Aleppo and Antioch. They were fervent supporters of the Chalcedonian definition of "two natures of Christ," and in 532, a synod in Constantinople made the monastery of Bet Maroun the head of the entire monastic community in northern Syria.

The Maronites suffered brutal persecution at the hands of the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, while the Muslim Arab rulers of Syria punished all contacts with the Byzantines. When the Byzantine see of Antioch fell vacant, the Maronites proclaimed their own bishop as "Patriarch of Antioch and all the East." Unfortunately, hostile relations with the Arabs and rival Christians drove the Maronites to the isolated and remote mountains of Lebanon.

In 1099, the Crusaders received a warm welcome from the Maronites, and their patriarch attended the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, receiving formal Latin acceptance as the head of the Maronite Church.

With the founding of the Maronite College in Rome in 1584, the Church became quite Latinized. With the encouragement of Vatican II, the Maronite Church revised its missal to return to many of the traditions and customs that had been lost. Since then, the patriarch has ordered all the clergy to wear the original Syriac vestments and has instituted several other Syriac reforms.

6. The Patriarchal Chaldean Catholic Church
Rite: East Syrian
Membership: 382,637

The Assyrian or Chaldean Church was established in Edessa in the first century. After the area was conquered by the Persians, the Church organized itself around a Catholic patriarch in the Persian royal capital at Seleucia-Ctesiphon. While Christians were persecuted by the pagan Roman Empire, they were welcomed into the Persian Empire.

This Church was represented at the Council of Nicea but not at later ecumenical councils once the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, the Persian Christians needed to avoid suspicion as Roman collaborators. The Chaldeans always favored the Antiochian school of Christology and welcomed the influx of Nestorian Christians, who were both condemned by the third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus and expelled by Emperor Zeno. Unofficially, they accepted the Council of Chalcedon as a vindication of Antiochian theology.

The Church was a very active missionary force and expanded into India, Tibet, China, Mongolia, and perhaps even Korea and the Philippines. This activity continued even after its Mesopotamian homeland was conquered by the Muslim Arabs. Indeed, it was nearly annihilated by the Mongol invasions of Tamerlane.

In the 13th century, due to Dominican and Franciscan activity in the region, there were several individual conversions of bishops and a few brief flirtations with reunification. Unfortunately, nothing lasting came about. However, in 1551, after one prominent family dominated the Chaldean Church and elected a twelve-year-old as patriarch, a group of concerned bishops elected their own patriarch and sent him to Rome to arrange a union with the Catholic Church. Their overtures were accepted by Pope Julius III in 1553, creating the Chaldean Catholic Church now centered in Baghdad.

Relations with the Assyrian Orthodox Church have also improved. In 1994, the Orthodox Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV and Pope John Paul II signed a common Christological Declaration. Two years later, Mar Dinkha IV and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid signed a joint patriarchal statement that committed the two Churches to full reintegration, drafting a common catechism and setting up a joint seminary. At this stage, the Assyrians wish to retain their freedom and self-governance while the Chaldean Catholics affirm the necessity of maintaining full communion with Rome.

7. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Rite: East Syrian
Membership: 3,752,434

The first Christians in India were evangelized by the apostle Thomas in what is now the state of Kerala. For most of their history, they were in communion with the Chaldean-Assyrian Church.

Indian Christians first encountered the Portuguese in 1498, when they warmly received the representatives of the Church of Rome, whose special status they continued to acknowledge despite long isolation.

Sadly, the Portuguese didn't initially accept the legitimacy of the Malabar Church, and in 1599, Latinizations were imposed appointments of Portuguese bishops, changes in the liturgy, Roman vestments, clerical celibacy, and the Inquisition. In 1653, after years of bitterness and tension, most Indian Christians severed their union with Rome. Alarmed, Pope Alexander VII sent Carmelites to India to repair the situation, and most of the Christians eventually returned to full communion with the Catholic Church.

In 1934, Pope Pius XI initiated a process of liturgical reform to restore the historic Syriac nature of the Latinized Syro-Malabar Church. Unfortunately, tension with the Latin Church remains over the establishment of Syro-Malabar jurisdictions in other parts of India where Latin dioceses already exist.

8. The Patriarchal Syrian Catholic Church
Rite: West Syrian
Membership: 123,376

Antioch was one of the ancient centers of Christianity, ranking third in primacy after Rome and Alexandria. When the Council of Chalcedon's teachings were rejected by large numbers in the rural areas of his jurisdiction, Jacob Baradai, the bishop of Edessa, ordained several bishops to carry on the Faith of those who had parted from the council. This Church, labeled "Jacobite," continued to use the Antiochian West Syrian Rite when urban Antioch adopted the Byzantine Rite.

With the conquest by the Persians, the Syrian Church was free to develop along lines parallel to that of the Assyrian Church with 103 dioceses extending into India, Afghanistan, Turkistan, and Xinjiang, China. Like their rival Assyrian Church, most churches and monasteries were destroyed by the Mongol invasions.

Syrian Orthodox bishops warmly received the Crusaders and discussed union with Rome. But while they attended the Council of Florence and agreed to union, nothing materialized. Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries were very successful, however, and many Syrians were received into communion with Rome. When the patriarchate fell vacant in 1662, the Catholic party was able to elect one of its own as patriarch. Despite this small victory, the Ottoman Empire favored the Syrian Orthodox and forced the Syrian Catholics underground.

Provoking yet another schism, the Syrian Orthodox Holy Synod elected Metropolitan Michael Jarweh of Aleppo as patriarch in 1782. Shortly after he was enthroned, though, he shocked the faithful by declaring himself a Catholic.

9. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Rite: West Syrian
Membership: 404,052

This Church was founded by the East Syrian–Rite Syro-Malabar Christians that rejected the Portuguese Latinizations. As a group, they were not welcomed back into their former Chaldean-Assyrian Church. In 1665 the non-Chalcedonian Syrian Orthodox agreed to send them a bishop on the condition that they agree to accept non-Chalcedonian Christology and follow the West Syrian Rite instead of the East Syrian Rite. In the 18th century, there were four formal attempts to reconcile the Catholic and Malankara Orthodox Syrian Churches, all of which failed. In 1926, five bishops who were opposed to the jurisdiction of the Syrian Orthodox patriarch in India opened negotiations with Rome. They had asked only that their liturgy be preserved and that the bishops be allowed to retain their dioceses. In response, Rome only required that the bishops make a profession of faith. This instigated a movement of faithful into the new Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

Churches of the Byzantine Rite

The Byzantine liturgical tradition is a highly stylized form of the Antiochian Rite developed for the Imperial Church based in Constantinople (Byzantium). After the Latin Rite, it is the most widely used rite in the world. At the Council of Chalcedon, the dioceses of Thrace, Pontus, and Asia were absorbed in order to legitimize Constantinople as the see of St. Andrew, the brother of Peter. Currently, there are 16 Eastern Orthodox Churches and 15 Catholic Churches that use the Byzantine Rite.

10. The Patriarchal Melkite Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 1,340,913

Founded as the Antiochian see of Peter, it was here that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. The term "Melkite" comes from the Syriac word for king and was originally used to refer to those within the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem who accepted the Council of Chalcedon.

With Jesuit, Capuchin, and Carmelite missionary activity in the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Antioch in the mid-17th century, the Antiochian Church became polarized, with the pro-Catholic party centered in Damascus and the anti-Catholic party in Aleppo.

The pro-Catholic party elected a patriarch in 1724 who was recognized by Pope Benedict XIII. In response, Constantinople excommunicated the Catholic patriarch and appointed a Greek as the Orthodox patriarch of Antioch.

While the Ottoman Empire was very hostile to the Catholic Melkites, the Church continued to grow because the Orthodox patriarch of Antioch was entirely subordinate to the Turks. On a positive note, in 1995, the Antiochian Orthodox and Melkite Catholic Churches agreed to work toward healing the 1724 schism.

11. The Italo-Albanian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 60,448

>From the earliest periods of Christianity, southern Italy and Sicily had strong connections with Greece and followed the Byzantine tradition. Despite this fact, as part of the Latin patriarchate, the Italo-Albanian Church has always been in union with Rome. Large numbers of Orthodox Albanians fled to this region when their country was conquered by Muslims and interestingly enough in 1553, the Italo-Albanian metropolitan archbishop was confirmed by the patriarch of Constantinople, with papal authorization. Thus, the Italo-Albanians have never formally broken communion with the Orthodox Church.

12. The Ukrainian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 4,321,508

The Ukrainians first received the Christian faith by way of Constantinople. Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev attended the Council of Florence and agreed to union between the Catholics and Orthodox, but the union was ultimately rejected.

In 1569, Jesuits began working for a local union between Catholics and Orthodox as a way of reducing Protestant influence. The Orthodox, for their part, favored such a union to preserve their Byzantine traditions at a time when the Polish Latin Rite Church was expanding.

A synod of Orthodox bishops at Brest in 1595 proclaimed a reunion between Rome and the metropolitan of Kiev. After similar moves in Przemysl in 1692 and Lviv in 1700, two-thirds of Ukraine had become Catholic. But as Orthodox Russia expanded its control into Ukraine, Catholicism was gradually suppressed. In 1839, Tsar Nicholas I abolished the union in all regions under Russian rule, but the Ukrainian Catholic Church thrived in areas under Austrian control. Later, the Soviet Union forced the Ukrainian Catholic Church into the Russian Orthodox Church.

With the fall of the USSR, Ukrainian Catholics emerged from the catacombs, but they've not yet recovered all of their stolen property. Lubomyr Cardinal Husar is popularly given the title of Ukrainian Catholic patriarch, but this title hasn't been approved by Rome due to sensitive relations with the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox.

13. The Ruthenian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 497,704

Nearly all Trans-Carpathian Ruthenian or Rusyn Orthodox formally united with Rome in 1646. Rusyn ethnic identity remains closely tied to the Byzantine Catholic Church. As a result, they were viciously persecuted and forced into the Russian Orthodox Church by Imperial Russia. Later, the Soviets attempted to wipe out all Rusyn national identity by declaring them to be either Orthodox, Russian, or Ukrainian.

14. The Byzantine Catholic Church USA (Rusyn Ruthenian Slovak)
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 100,000

Many Ruthenian or Rusyn Catholics immigrated to North America. In 1891 and again in 1929, almost all returned to the Orthodox after experiencing strained relations with the Latin hierarchy and their imposition of clerical celibacy. Those who remained with the Catholic Church make up the Byzantine Catholic Church USA Metropolitate.

In 1999 William Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore apologized on behalf of the American Latin hierarchy for the inexcusable actions of Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, and others responsible for driving so many into what is now the Orthodox Church of America.

15. The Romanian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 746,000

The apostle Andrew was chosen to carry the gospel to Scythia in what is now Romania. This Byzantine Church is notable in that it exists within a predominantly Latin culture (Romanian is a romance language directly descended from the language of Roman soldiers and settlers).

Romanian delegates attended the Council of Constance in 1414 and signed the decree of union at the Council of Florence. Unfortunately, in 1744 there was a popular movement back to Orthodoxy following violations of religious and civil rights that had been guaranteed by the union with Rome.

Under communism, the Church was suppressed and merged into the Romanian Orthodox Church. In 1989 three secretly ordained Catholic bishops emerged. Since then, there has been considerable tension with the Orthodox over the return of Romanian Catholic Church property.

16. The Greek Catholic Church in Greece
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 2,345

The Greek Orthodox Church is virulently opposed to the existence of this small Church. Indeed, the situation is such that it's illegal for Byzantine Catholic priests to dress like Orthodox clergy in Greece. The few Greek Catholics here are served by celibate priests who have transferred from the Latin Church.

17. The Greek Catholic Church in former Yugoslavia
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 76,670

In 1611 a Byzantine vicar, subordinate to the Latin bishops, was appointed for Serbian Orthodox who fled from the Muslim Turks. In 1777, Rome created an independent eparchy for all Byzantines in Croatia under Austrian rule. Approximately 50 percent of this Church is ethnically Rusyn.

18. The Bulgarian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 10,000

Bulgaria was often in dispute between Rome and Constantinople, but it fell under the jurisdiction of Constantinople in 870 at the Eighth Ecumenical Council. Wanting independence from Constantinople, the Bulgarians negotiated a union with Rome in 1861, but most eventually returned to the Orthodox. This was the only Byzantine Catholic Church not officially suppressed under communism perhaps because Pope John XXIII was once a papal emissary to Bulgaria.

19. The Slovak Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 225,136

In 1646 the Union of Uzhorod was accepted in what is now eastern Slovakia. After communism fell, most of the confiscated ecclesial property was returned to the Catholic Church. In America, Slovaks are not distinguished from Ruthenians or Rusyns.

20. The Hungarian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 268,935

A Greek monk named Hierothus from Constantinople was consecrated the first bishop of Hungary around 950. As the cracks of schism grew between Latins and Greeks, the Byzantine Rite Hungarians remained in communion with a Serbian Orthodox metropolitan. But after a number of union agreements, most of the Orthodox became Byzantine Catholic.

In the 18th century, a group of Hungarian Protestants decided to become Catholic but chose to enter the Byzantine Catholic Church instead of the Latin Church. While Greek had been the liturgical language, in 1900 Pope Leo XIII approved the use of Hungarian.

21. The Russian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 20 parishes worldwide

In its conversion from paganism, Russia accepted Byzantine Christianity while still in full communion with Rome in 988. The institutional Russian Catholic Church began in the 19th century as the result of a movement involving Vladimir Soloviev and Rev. Nicholas Tolstoy. They believed the schism between Greeks and Latins never created any official break between Russia and Rome.

In 1908 Pope Pius X appointed an apostolic exarchate. The decree from the Vatican Secretariat of State read: "Therefore His Holiness commands the aforementioned to observe the laws of the Byzantine Rite faithfully and in all their integrity, without any admixture from the Latin Rite or any other Rite he must also see that his subjects, clergy and all other Catholics, do the same."

Under communism the greater part of the Russian Catholic clergy and faithful together with Georgian Catholics, Armenian Catholics, and Latin Catholics were put to death along with thousands of Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews in the mass executions of the gulags.

22. The Belarusian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 100,000

The Belarusian Catholic Church began in the Union of Brest in 1596 and became the state religion, but it was later suppressed by Imperial Russia and again by the Soviet Union. Strongly associated with Belarusian nationalism, it has no organized hierarchy.

23. The Albanian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 3,000

The apostle Paul preached in Illyricum and Titus preached in Dalmatia, both of which are found in modern-day Albania. The first bishop was Kaisarios, one of the 70 apostles. Sadly, most Albanians became Muslim during the Turkish conquest.

Both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were suppressed in 1967 when Albania was declared an atheist state religious buildings were closed, and no services of any kind were permitted.

24. The Georgian Catholic Church
Rite: Byzantine
Membership: 7,000

The Georgian Church began in 337 and used the Syriac Rite of St. James. When the neighboring Armenians rejected the Council of Chalcedon, the Georgians accepted the conciliar decrees and adopted the Byzantine Rite.

Theatine and Capuchin missionaries worked for reunion in Georgia, but under Imperial Russia in 1845, Catholics were not allowed to use the Byzantine Rite. Many Catholics adopted the Armenian Rite until the institution of religious liberty in 1905, which allowed them to return to the Byzantine Rite. In 1937 the Georgian Catholic exarch was executed by the Soviets.

At present, the Georgian Catholic Church has no organized hierarchy.

Outreach from Rome to the Eastern Orthodox has increased in the past 30 years. Pope John Paul II worked tirelessly to reach out to Eastern Christians his own mother, in fact, was an Eastern Catholic. And it appears that Benedict XVI will continue this effort. The day after his inauguration, he received representatives of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and has since stated that one of his primary goals is to address the difficulties that continue between Catholics and Orthodox.

It remains a deep and abiding tragedy that Orthodoxy and Catholicism sister Churches in the Apostolic Faith remain at odds. Any semblance of official reunion will take time many Orthodox Churches still struggle to discover their own identity after generations of control by tsars, kings, sultans, nationalism, communism, and the new emergence of evangelicalism and renewed Islamic militancy. In the hope of that reconciliation, the Eastern Catholic Churches can act as a bridge a mediator between East and West. In them, the Eastern traditions are both preserved and united with the West. In spite of a difficult past, they're a sign of great hope and a pattern for how Eastern practice might coexist without corruption or confusion with the Latin Church and the universal office of the papacy. As we have seen, maintaining this balance requires great care.

Genuine apostolic tradition is preserved in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Insofar as some have drifted toward Latin practices, they've abandoned the unique traditions passed on to them by their founding apostles. This is a tragedy for all Catholics. Unity, again, is not uniformity. The Catholic Church is universal, and in its God-ordained diversity, there is great strength.

Kevin R. Yurkus. "The Other Catholics: A Short Guide to the Eastern Catholic Churches." Crisis (July/August 2005).

This article is reprinted with permission from the Morley Institute a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.

The Armenian Church

The Church was founded by Jesus Christ. According to tradition, two of His Apostles ― St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew ― preached His Gospel in Armenia as early as the second half of the first century. Then in the early fourth century St. Gregory the Illuminator formally established the Church in Armenia, when King Tiridates III was baptized and declared Christianity as the state religion. St. Gregory (c. 240-325 AD) was a descendant of a noble house in Parthia, who was brought up as a Christian in Cappadocia. He was consecrated a bishop by Leontius, the metropolitan of Caesarea, as the first Bishop of Armenia. He began his missionary work in Armenia during the first decade of the fourth century, while a layman ― and upon is consecration as Bishop ― he established the Armenian nation’s Holy See in Vagharshapat (Etchmiadzin). He is called Illuminator for “enlightening the nation with the light of the gospel” through baptism. Etchmiadzin, literally, means “the only begotten descended.” According to tradition, St. Gregory saw Christ in a vision, who indicated to him where to build His Church, the first Armenian Church.

Indeed, the Christianization of Armenia “determined the entire future course of Armenian history”. As the new Faith took roots in the life of the nation, the invention of an Armenian alphabet was necessitated. Realizing the needs of the Armenian faithful, in 406, St. Mesrob Mashdotz created the Armenian alphabet, under the auspices of Catholicos Sahag, in order to make the Christian faith accessible to the people in a written form. Greek and Syriac were the languages used in the church services.

Soon after the invention of the alphabet, St. Mesrob together with St. Sahag and a group of associates ― known as Holy Translators ― translated the Holy Scriptures into Armenian, followed by the biblical, theological and liturgical writings of eminent church fathers. This most important era is known as the Golden Age of Armenian history. “The missionary and literary labors [of this period] shaped the destiny of the Armenian people and Church for succeeding generations. [St. Mesrob and St. Sahag, their disciples and co-workers] spearheaded the creation of the Armenian Christian culture under the patronage of the King Vramshapuh. This period was one of intense activity and rapid development for the Church and was decisive in its consolidation and nationalization”.

One of the most significant events in Armenian Christianity is the battle of Avarair. Toward the middle of the fifth century, Armenia faced growing pressures from the Persian King Yazdegert II, who had issued an edict bidding the Armenians to renounce Christ and embrace Zoroastrianism. In 451, headed by the commander-in-chief Vartan Mamikonian, Armenians fought against the Persians to preserve their faith. Yeghishe, the historian who wrote The History of Vartan and the Armenian War, in a dialogue between the Persian Tenshabuh (ambassador) and the Priest Ghevont, expresses the profundity of this faith: “Christ, the living and life-giving true God, by His beneficent will became the healer of souls and bodies and Himself first suffered tortures and pains to cure the entire human race. He granted us second birth in health without pains and afflictions”. St. Vartan fell in the battlefield of Avarair and Armenians were physically defeated. For the next thirty years, Persian oppression followed and Armenian resistance under the leadership of Vahan Mamikonian (Vartan’s nephew) continued until 484, when the Persian King Peroz reversed course and declared full toleration of Christian faith and the formal recognition of the Church in the treaty of Navarsak.

The following centuries were difficult periods in Armenian history, starting with Persian rule (430-634) and later Arab domination (c. 654-851). In the 9th century (c. 885) there was an independent kingdom of the Bagratids in Armenia, however it ended in 1079. In the medieval Kingdom of Cilicia, or Lesser Armenia, there was an independent entity from the end of the 12th century to 1375. Persecution and martyrdom had become common occurrences. A larger proportion of Armenians were massacred in the Ottoman Empire starting in the late 19th century to the Genocide in the early 20th century. Armenians also suffered under the Russians starting in 1893 and later in the Soviet Union until the 1980s.

In assessing history and the role of the Armenian Church in the life of the Armenian nation, Archbishop Aram Keshishian (Catholicos of Cilicia since 1995) writes: “Confessing Christ has become the quintessence of our history. The history of the Armenian Church in all its manifestations and achievements, conflicts and struggles, is in the fullest sense of the term the history of confessing Christ in action. All the spheres of our life were touched by the transforming power of Christ. The Armenian culture in particular with its spiritual depth and transcendent dynamism has provided the Church with creative insights and new perspectives and horizons in terms of integrating Christ into the ethos of the Nation” .

The Faith of the Armenian Church

The Faith of the Armenian Church is transmitted through the church’s Holy Tradition, that is, the ongoing life of the church from the time of Christ to our times. The Bible, liturgy and worship, writings of the church fathers, church councils, saints, canons, religious art and rituals ― organically linked together ― formulate the Holy Tradition of the Church. This Faith is articulated in the Creed of the Armenian Church, the formal declaration of beliefs, which in turn defines the church’s raison d’etre and sets the parameters of its mission and functioning.

The Armenian Church professes her faith in the context of her worship. Theologically, whatever the church believes, the church prays. As such, the Armenian Church’s worship and liturgy constitute a prime source for teaching and living her faith. Tradition, on the other hand, defines and formulates the “articles of faith” and transmits them from generation to generation.

As articulated in the Creed, the Armenian Church believes in One God, the Father Almighty who is the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. Humanity (male and female) is created in the image and likeness of God, and as such is a special creature. However, because of the Fall of man, sin entered the world.

The Church believes in Jesus Christ, “the only begotten Son of God, who came down from heaven, was incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit.” He became man, suffered and was crucified, and was buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.

The Armenian Church believes in the Holy Spirit, uncreated and perfect, who proceeds from the Father, and together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and apostles and descended into the Jordan river, witnessing Christ’s Baptism.

The Armenian Church is One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church. She believes in one Baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins. On judgment day, Christ will call all men and women who have repented to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom, which has no end. Christ overcame the power of death with His own death and gave salvation to all mankind. The dogmas of the Armenian Church are based on these “articles of faith.”

Family of Churches

The Armenian Church belongs to the Orthodox family of churches, known as the Oriental Orthodox, or Non-Chalcedonian, Churches: the Armenian, Coptic, Syrian, Indian Malabar, Ethiopian and Eritrean churches.

Generally, Christianity is divided mainly between Eastern and Western churches. The relationship between Byzantium (East) and Rome (West) deteriorated gradually. In the ninth century a schism between the Byzantine Church and the Church of Rome started to shape during the time of Patriarch Photius. In 1054, anathemas were declared by both sides (Patriarch Michael and Cardinal Humbert), which lasted for centuries. By 1204, when the Crusaders captured Constantinople, the schism had become final. In 1965, following the Vatican II Council, the anathemas were lifted by both sides in a spirit of ecumenism and understanding among the churches.

The main theological differences and disagreements between the Eastern (including the Armenians) and the Church of Rome (Catholics) are in the following issues:

Papal Supremacy: the Roman Catholics consider the Pope the “Vicar of Christ”, while the Orthodox churches consider him only as “first in honor” and in pastoral diakonia.

Papal Infallibility: The Catholics follow a “monarchical” model of ecclesial polity, whereby pronouncements of the Pope made on behalf of the Church (ex cathedra) are considered infallible. The Orthodox follow a “conciliar” model, where church councils determine church dogma, canons and policies.

There are also other minor differences between these two branches of churches, for example, regarding the rules of fasting unleavened bread at Eucharist (West) manner of conferring confirmation celibacy of clergy divorce (not sanctioned in Roman Catholicism) purgatory (East doesn’t teach it) West has “scholastic’ approach, East has “mystical” approach to theological issues.

On the other hand, the main difference between the Byzantine tradition (Eastern Orthodox) ― also known as Chalcedonian churches ― and the Armenian Church (along with the Oriental Orthodox Churches) has been on the issue of Christology, namely, regarding the dogma on Christ’s Divine and Human natures. The controversy originated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which defined Christ as “Perfect God and Perfect Man in One Person” and “confessed to be in two natures, without mixture and without change, without separation and without division…”.

Unlike the formulation at Chalcedon, the Armenian Church’s Christology is based on what is known as the Alexandrian school of theology. St. Cyril of Alexnadria’s formula of ‘One Nature of the Incarnate Word’ is the basis of this Christology. It teaches that at the moment of Christ’s Incarnation, divine nature and human nature are united inseparably in a single nature, that is, ‘in a single person’. Catholicos Karekin I explains: “The two natures haven’t lost their own characteristics or their integrity, but they do not act separately otherwise, we would have a dualism, and the Incarnation would not have taken place”. Furthermore, “‘One Nature’ is never interpreted in the Armenian Christology as a numerical one, but always a united one,” adds Abp. Keshishian. “Second, the term ‘nature’ (Greek ousia, Armenian bnut’iun) is used in Armenian theological literature in three different senses: (a) as essence, an abstract notion, (b) as substance, a concrete reality, (c) as person. In the context of anti-Chalcedonian Christology ‘one nature’ is used in a sense of ‘one person’ composed of two natures”.

The followers of Cyril of Alexandria and those who adopted his formulation became known as monophysites (those advocating ‘one nature’) because they rejected the formulation of Chalcedon on the basis that the Council spoke of two natures (Diophysites). This is why the Armenian and the other Oriental Churches are also known as Non-Chalcedonian Churches and are sometimes erroneously referred to as Monophysite Churches.

These Christological terminology and debates might seem trivial to the laymen, but the theological controvery continued for centuries, often becoming a matter of political influence and expediency. But, in 1990, the theologians and official representatives of both Eastern (Byzantine) and Oriental Orthodox Churches ― after years of dialogue and consultations ― agreed in a formal statement that their theological understanding, especially their Christology, is “orthodox.” The statement called for unity and communion between the two branches of Orthodox Churches. The document was sent to the respective leaders of the participating churches for review and formal approval.

Medieval Armenian History

Dymydyuk D.Blade weapons in the medieval Armenian chronicles of the Bagratid era (end of 9th – middle of 11th centuries): the problem of terminology, History and culture. Journal of Armenian studies, Yerevan 2019, Vol. 2, p. 33-48.

Դիմիդյուկ Դ. Սառը զենքերը Բագրատունյաց դարաշրջանի ժամանակագրություններում (IX դ. վերջ-XI դ.). հարցի տերմինաբանությունը, Պատմություն եվ մշակույթ. Հայագիտական հանդես, Երեվան 2019, №2, 33-48.

В статье рассматривается терминология холодного оружия, а именно проблема значения и использования слов “սուր” (сур), “սուսեր” (сусер) “թուր” (тур)”, “վաղակ” (вагхак), а также “պողովատ” (погховат) в средневековых армянских хрониках времен Багратидов (конец IX – середина XI вв.) и смежных эпох. Анализируется различия между упомянутыми терминами, закономерности их использования в хрониках, а также характеристика описываемого оружия.
Обращено внимание на то, что в средневековых армянских летописях существует полный хаос относительно использования тех или других военных терминов, потому что в большинстве случаев выбор термина зависел от стиля хрониста, его языковых предпочтений и других причин, из-за чего невозможно точно идентифицировать значение тех или иных терминов.
Предполагаем, что в эпоху Багратидов слово “սուր” (сур), скорее всего, означало простой обоюдоострый меч и вместе со словом “սուսեր” (сусер) чаще всего использовалось в хрониках, в то время как термин “թուր” (тур) использовался крайне редко.
Чтобы уточнить информацию о том, как выглядел тот или иной меч, летописцы могли использовать дополнительные слова, как “երկսայր” (ерксайр – обоюдоострый) или “միասեռ” (миасер – однолезвийный). Заметим, что в хрониках отсутствовала информация, которая бы указывала на кривизну лезвия меча.

Ключевые слова: меч, палаш, сабля, սուր, սուսեր, թուր, Багратидская Армения, оружие.

The article discusses terminology of blade weapons, namely the problem of the meaning and using the words “սուր” (sur), “սուսեր” (suser), “թուր” (tur), “վաղակ” (vaghak) and “պողովատ” (poghovat) in the medieval Armenian chronicles of the Bagratid era (late 9th – middle of 11th c.) and adjacent periods. The differences between the mentioned terms, dependences of their use in the chronicles, and the physical characteristics of the described weapons were analyzed.
Attention was drawn to the fact that in the medieval Armenian chronicles there was complete chaos regarding the using of military terms, because in most cases the choice of the term depended on the style of the chronicler, his language preferences and other reasons. Therefore, it is impossible to determine the accurate meaning of these terms.
We can assume that in the Bagratid era, the word “սուր” (sur) probably meant a simple double-edged sword, and together with the word “սուսեր” (suser) they were the most popular in medieval Armenian chronicles, while the word “թուր” (tur) was used rarely. In order to clarify the information about on what the swords looked like, chroniclers could use additional words like “երկսայր” (yerksayr – double-edged) or “միասեռ” (miaser – single-edged). Please note, that in those times chronicles did not contain any information which would indicate the curvature of the blades.

Keywords: sword, broadsword, palash, saber, սուր, սուսեր, թուր, Bagratid Armenia, weapons.

Հոդվածում քննվում են Բագրատունյաց Հայաստանում (IX դ. վերջ–XI դ.) ստեղծված “Ժամանակագրություններ”-ի տվյալները, որոնք վերաբերում են սառը զենքերի տեսակներին: Խոսքը, մասնավորապես, վերաբերում է “սուր”, “սուսեր”, “թուր”, “վաղակ”, ինչպես նաև “պողովատ” բառերի կիրառությանը և նշանակությանը: Վերլուծվել են վերոնշյալ տերմինների միջև առկա տարբերությունները, “Ժամանակագրություններ”-ում նրանց կիրառության օրինաչափությունները: Բնականաբար, տրվել է դրանց ընդհանուր բնութագիրը:
Պետք է նշել, որ հայ միջնադարյան տարեգրքերում զենքերի հիշատակությունները խիստ անկանոն են: Շատ հաճախ տերմինի ընտրությունը կախված էր տարեգրի ոճից, նախընտրությունից և այլն: Նման հանգամանքը թույլ չի տալիս հստակ որոշել տերմինների նշանակությունը և նույնականությունը:
Պետք է ասել, որ Բագրատունյաց շրջանում “սուր” բառը հիմնականում կիրառվել է երկսայր զենքերի վերաբերյալ: “Սուր” և “սուսեր” բառերը ավելի շատ են օգտագործվել տարեգիրների կողմից: Մինչդեռ “թուր” բառը հազվադեպ է հանդիպում: Տարեգիրները զենքի տեսքն առավել մանրամասն նկարագրելու համար երբեմն օգտագործել են “երկսայր” (երկու կողմից սուր) և “միասեռ” (մեկ կողմից սուր) հավելյալ բառերը: Պետք է նկատել նաև, որ տարեգրքերում բացակայել են շեղբի կորության մասին տվյալներ:

Բանալի բառեր. սուր, թրադաշույն, սվին, սուսեր, թուր, Բագրատունյաց Հայաստան, զենք:

What are the distinct differences between the major denominations in Christianity?

There are only 3 denominations of Islam that I know of. Those 3 being Sunni, Shia, and the rare Ibadi. When I look at Christianity at times I am overwhelmed by how many there are, how do you guys go about understanding the fundamental differences between the varying sects?

I know there are many denominations including Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptics, Chaldeans, etc..

I was wondering what the major differences were between the major denominations? I figure the major denominations would be Anglican, Mormon, Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox? If not, please correct me. What are the major differences between these? I never fully understood looking into it myself.

There's basically 7 major groups of christianity.

These two are the fragments of the original church:

These two are model examples of "protestantism", and come out of catholicsm:

these next three are pretty similar, and contain decent examples of distinctly american christianity:

In the beginning, there was one church. I tend to call this "the one apostolic church" or something like that.

In 1054AD, bishops from the east and the west mutually excommunicated one another over disagreements. This created Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Their biggest difference has to do with how they see the bishop of rome catholics think he has supremacy in matters of doctrine, while the orthodox think bishops can only change doctrine through ecumenical councils.

They have more differences than that, especially since the development of thomistic philosophy in catholicism, and palamism in orthodoxy (both came about after the split), but these are really really complicated topics that only matter if you study that sort of thing.

Anyway, in the catholic west, by the time of the 1500s, some abusive practices had cropped up in the church and in government.

Reacting against these abuses, martin luther tried to reform the church, but ended up accidentally schisming instead, founding lutheranism (one of the magesterial protestant denominations).

While lutheranism has a lot of little differences with catholicism, the biggest 2 are that salvation is through faith alone, rather than aided by works, and that the ultimate authority in matters of doctrine is not the pope or tradition, but rather the words of the scriptures.

Not long after, king henry VIII seperated the english church from catholicism and founded the anglican church (another magesterial protestant group). Anglicanism has a lot of variation, so I can't really sum up it's differences with catholicism.

At the same time luther was having his reformation, peasant leaders were leading military rebellions across europe. no one knows the exact origins, but out of this milieu, you end up with the first wave of "radically reformed" christians: the anabaptists. they have a lot of distinct beliefs, but I don't know much about them to be honest. What makes them somewhat distinct is that they tend to not have a hierarchy, and they tend to practice adult rather than infant baptism. the originals were very communalistic, and you can see this in the more conservative groups of anabaptists who still exist, one example being the amish.

a similar sort of "rebel christianity" cropped up in england during their civil wars in the 1600s. Iɽ say these groups are radically reformed as well, but they're also sometimes called "separatists" or "english separatists", and would include groups like the baptists, quakers, puritans, etc. The biggest group of these that still exists would be the baptists. Big disctinctiveness with these groups is that they literally just hated everything in the anglican church that they saw as being "too catholic", so they threw it all out. So, you see memorialism instead of real presence, business suits instead of vestments, and a complete lack of liturgy in these groups.

Going back in time a bit, about 50 years after martin luther, you have this guy john calvin who also decides to try and reform the church in switzerland. He apes some of luther's ideas, like basing doctrine on scripture alone, but comes to a different theology than luther, which is intensely focused on god's sovereignty, and the predestination of souls to heaven or hell.

One of Calvin's students, john knox, took calvin's teachings to scotland, where he founded the presbyterian church ("presbyterian" simply refers to the style of church government that they use presbyter means "elder" and they're governed by a council of presbyters).

Churches that follow calvin's theology are called "calvinist" or "reformed". presbyterianism is a large group of them, but you also have other groups who follow calvin's ideas about predestination, but are otherwise part of other groups -- e.g. reformed baptists.

Jump a little bit ahead in time to the mid 1700s in the anglican church and you'll come to a preacher named john wesley. Wesley was really big on helping the poor, cultivating personal righteousness, and teaching common people about christianity. His different way of doing anglicanism became known as "the method".

During the US revolution, wesley was in america. At this time, there was a shortage of anglican priests in the US, but the king refused to consecrate more bishops to serve in america. Wesley was incised at this, so he sought out ordination from a rogue orthodox bishop, became a bishop himself, and schismed from the church of england, founding Methodism.

Now then, not too much later in american history, you end up having what's called "the second great awakening". During this time, you had a bunch of preachers (mostly baptists and methodists) going out into the largely unsettled backwoods of the east and southern US converting the rural poor. During this upswing of religious fervor in the US, the concept of "restorationism" took root in upstate new york.

Restorationism was originally the idea that all of these damn denominations thusfar should be unified, and that they existed because they were all wrong and the original biblical church needed to be restored, but it really just resulted in more denominations. You ended up with new theologies coming along, namely, adventism, and mormonism. A little later, you also end up with the jehovah's witnesses coming into existence with inspiration from adventism (but no direct lineage). Mormonism and JW aren't normally considered christianity they differ in that they reject the trinity (in different ways). Mormonism believes that there is more scripture than what's in the bible (and a shit ton of other exceedingly weird stuff), and JW are a hawkish cult that's hyper strict about the conduct of it's members.

Adventism was founded on the idea that jesus would come back between spring 1843 and spring 1844. That's all that really needs to be said about adventism, that and the word "retcon" for any groups of them that still exist today.

Basically, ignore restorationism. It shouldn't even be part of church history because 9/10 of what came out of it isn't even considered christianity by most people.

Finally, the youngest branching of christianity is pentecostalism. pentecostalism ultimately has it's origins in revival preaching, but most people think of the azusa street mission, which was a particular church where modern pentecostalism sort of crystalized. Some of the things that characterise pentecostalism are that they tend to have racially integrated congregations, they believe in something they call the "baptism of the holy spirit", which is a seperate event from water baptism, and that this baptism of the spirit allows the person to speak in "tongues".

Three that testify

Perhaps the most famous place where the TR goes against the M-Text is in 1 John 5:7-8. Indeed, this is one of the main verses to which KJV Onlyists will turn to show supposed problems with modern translations. Most modern translations are based on a modern Critical Text platform often known as the Nestle-Aland/UBS (NU) platform. This is an eclectic text compiled from diverse manuscripts, but one that often gives weight to the earliest manuscripts even when they are in the minority. Thus, the NU often differs with the M-Text, but almost always based on how early and/or diverse the testimony for the minority reading is. In the case of 1 John 5:7-8, however, the NU and the M-text are in perfect agreement. This is because both the earliest manuscripts AND the majority of all manuscripts read the same way here. They simply say:

“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood and the three are in agreement,” (1 John 5:7-8, NASB).

The TR, and thus the KJV, contain a much longer reading:

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one,” (1 John 5:7-8, KJV).

The problem is that there is no Greek manuscript evidence for this longer reading prior to around the 16th century. It seems to be a carryover from the Latin, where it was perhaps added as an interpolation. At any rate, whatever the origin of the reading, it is not by any stretch of the imagination a part of the Majority Text. This is a good example of a stark and significant difference between the TR and M-text.

Armenian Apostolic Church

The Armenian Apostolic Oriental Orthodox Church, is one of the original Oriental Orthodox churches. The Armenian Church recognizes the Ecumenical Councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431). The decisions and the dogmatic formulations of these councils are the basis of the theological thought of the Armenian Church which help her to protect herself against different sects and religious denominations which threatened her in the past as well as today.

Some councils which were recognized by the Latin and Byzantine Orthodox Churches as Ecumenical were denied according to the councils of the Armenian Church.

The councils which were not recognized by the Armenian Church as Ecumenical are the following: the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Second Council of Constantinople (553), the Third Council of Constantinople (681) and the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

In 451 the Council of Chalcedon, the Universal Church realized its first divergence because of the dangerous ideas put forward regarding the problem of the human and divine nature of Christ. Some oriental bishops did not accept the conclusions of the Chalcedonic Council and were thus separated from the West. Among the oriental Orthodox Church family are the Armenian Apostolic, Coptic, Ethiopian, Assyrian, and Indian Malabar. In fact, Armenian Church did not participate in the Council of Chalcedon (451), because in 451 Armenia were having one of the important battles of his history, Battle of Vartanats. The Armenian church has been labeled monophysite because they rejected the decisions of this council, which condemned monophysitism.

The Western Church proceeded with its activities cutting off ties with the Oriental Orthodox Churches. But later on different inner divergences took place in the West. In 1054 the church was divided into the Roman Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox Sees after coming to an insoluble disagreement over the theological problem of the origin of the Holy Spirit.

The head of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church is Jesus Christ. The Supreme Spiritual and Administrative leader of the Armenian Church is His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, who is the worldwide spiritual leader of the Nation, for Armenians both in Armenia and dispersed throughout the world. He is Chief Shepherd and Pontiff to 9,000,000 Armenian faithful, he is the Pope for Armenians. The spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Armenian Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, located in the city of Vagharshapat, Republic of Armenia, was established in 301 AD and seventeen centuries later continues to guide the devoted nation and people on the luminous paths of fulfilling the primary mission of the Church - leading people to God. “Catholicos” is derived from the Greek word Katholikos, which means Universal. When the structure of the Armenian Church was created, the title was originally used to indicate the highest leader of the church. St. Gregory the Illuminator, the first Catholicos of All Armenians, was still subordinate to the See of Caesarea in Cappadocia and the chief bishops of Georgia and Albania, although dependent on the Catholicos of Armenia. Under King Pap and the Catholicos Hooszik I, Armenia asserted its independence of Caesarea.

On the other hand the Armenian Catholic Church, which is an Eastern Rite church under the authority of the Pope in Rome.

St. Gregory the Illuminator is the Patron Saint of the Armenian Church. He is referred to as "St. Gregory the Illuminator," or "Soorp Krikor Lousavorich" because he spread the light of Christ and converted the Armenian people to Christianity.

While Christianity was practiced in secret by a growing number of people in Armenia during the first and second centuries, it was St. Gregory (302-325) and King Trdat III (287-330) who in 301 A.D. officially proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of Armenia and thus made Armenia the first nation in world history to adopt Christianity as the state religion

The story according to the Holy Tradition is as follows: As part of a planned plot, the Persian King Ardashir I, sent a trusted friend, Anak, to Armenia, to kill King Khosrov. During a hunting trip, Anak killed the King and ran away. The loyal men of the King pursued Anak, who was subsequently killed. The dying King gave orders to exterminate Anak's family. Only one infant escaped this slaughter, and was rushed by his nurse to the city of Caesarea. This nurse happened to be a converted Christian. She brought up her charge in the Christian faith and gave him a Greek name, Gregory. St. Gregory became a devout Christian married a Christian lady named Mariam, and had two children, Verthanes and Arsitakes.

When the Persian King heard that the King of Armenia was killed, he overran the country and established Persian rule in Armenia. Two of the children of King Khosrov were saved. The Princess Khosrovidought was taken to one of the inaccessible castles of the country, while Prince Trdat was taken to Rome. Trdat received a thorough Roman training. When he became a mature young man, able to rule a kingdom, he was sent by Rome to occupy Armenia, recover the throne of his father, and become a Roman ally.

As Trdat was returning to Armenia, most of the loyal Armenian feudal lords, who were in hiding, accompanied Trdat. St. Gregory also decided to go along with him. Nobody had any knowledge of his background or of his religious convictions. Trdat found out that St. Gregory was a well-educated, dependable and conscientious young man. He appointed him as his secretary.

After winning back Armenia, Trdat gave orders for a great and solemn celebration. During the festival, St. Gregory was ordered to lay wreaths before the statue of the goddess Mother Anahit, who was the most popular deity of the country. St. Gregory refused and confessed that he was a Christian. One of the king's ministers decided to reveal St. Gregory's secret. He told the King that St. Gregory was the son of Anak, the killer of his father King Khosrov. Trdat gave orders to torture St. Gregory. When St. Gregory stood fast, the King ordered him to be put to death by throwing him into a prison-pit (Khor Virab) in the town of Artashat to be starved to slow death.

Through divine intervention and with the assistance of someone in the Court, St. Gregory survived this terrible ordeal for thirteen years. It is thought the Princess Khosrovidought, the King's sister, had found a way to feed St. Gregory in the dungeon.

During that very year the king issued two edicts: the first ordered to arrest all the Christians in Armenia confiscating their property, the second ordered to put to death those who hid Christians. These edicts show how dangerous was Christianity for the State and for heathen religion in the country.

This undertaking of persecution revealed the presence of a group of women, who were peacefully and secretly living in the capital city of Vagharshapat. The Holy Tradition claims that a group of Roman Christian virgins ran away to the East in order to escape the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletianus. After visiting Jerusalem and paying tribute to the holy places, the virgins came to Edessa, then crossed the frontiers of Armenia and settled down in vineyards not far from Vagharshapat. The leader of these pious women was Gayané. There was also among them a beautiful maiden called Hripsimé, who King Trdat wanted to have as his concubine. Hripsimé refused and resisted the King's advances and finally fled from the Palace. This was too much for King Trdat and he mercilessly ordered to have all the women killed. They were 32 in number. Gayane¢, the mentor of the virgins and two others living in the southern part of the town and a sick virgin were tormented in the vineyards. The execution of the Hripsimian virgins took place in 300/301. This slaughter of innocent women and his frustration at being rejected threw the King into melancholy and finally made him insane. He could not attend the affairs of the state. In the 5th century people called this "pig’s illness", which is why sculptors portray the king with a pig’s head.

His sister, Khosrovidukht, did everything to bring her brother back to his senses. Then one day in a dream, she saw St. Gregory coming out of the dungeon and healing her brother. She told the people at the Court of her dream, and revealed that he was alive. They sent men to the dungeon to bring him out. As he emerged, out came a man with a long beard, dirty clothes and darkened face. But his face was shining with a strange and strong light. He immediately gathered and buried the remains of the virgin-martyrs and thereafter preached the Gospel for a period of time and healed the King. Trdat III proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia after which the entire royal court was baptized. King Trdat was cured and became a new man. He said to St. Gregory: "Your God is my God, your religion is my religion." From that moment until their death they remained faithful friends and worked together, each in his own way, for the establishment of the Kingdom of God in Armenia.

Today there are large Armenian Orthodox congregations in many middle-eastern countries outside Armenia. Of particular importance is the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iran (see also Christians in Iran) where Armenians are the largest Christian ethnic minority.

Other large Armenian Orthodox congregations are in the USA and in many Western European countries.

How do I find a list of the differences between the Septuagint, the Samaritan and the Masoretic texts?

I have a question concerning the three texts of Torah. I searched in the internet to know the 6000 differences between the three, and found that supposedly 1900 of them where the Septuagint agrees with the Samaritan [editor’s note: the questioner is referring here to the Samaritan Pentateuch], but I found nothing. Do you know a webpage or a book on the internet where I can found these differences?


You can find lists of differences between the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Masoretic Texts because both are in Hebrew, but to enumerate differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic is difficult if not impossible, simply because the Septuagint is in Greek and the Masoretic is in Hebrew. Technically, they cannot “differ” because one is a translation. If you had a word in an English translation and a word in an Egyptian translation, how could you know if one reflected a different original Greek source? This might be difficult. Of course, some textual differences can be detected, despite the language difference, as certain Hebrew words in the Masoretic would be at such odds with the Septuagint and certain Greek words in the Septuagint would be at such odds with the Hebrew Masoretic that a scholar could declare clearly there is a “difference.” You can occasionally detect this in the margin notes of your Bibles as it may say in the margin things like “Septuagint: xxxxx” or “Masoretic: xxxxx” or “Dead Sea Scrolls: xxxxx”. Another point is that in the DSS, there are some Hebrew texts which are more similar to the Septuagint than to the Masoretic. This also can help to find “differences” between the Septuagint and the Masoretic, but, again, to enumerate is difficult.

So, I believe your request for a site that enumerates or lists all differences between the Masoretic and the Septuagint will not be met. What you can do, and what will be more helpful anyway, is when you are studying a particular passage in the Old Testament, look at the Masoretic, the DSS and the Septuagint and take every case one at a time. For example, you could look at the Masoretic, the Dead Sea Scroll and the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14. This is the famous one about the virgin being with child. You can compare the three and decide for yourself what the original was, as well as its likely meaning, given the Septuagint translation.

Bear in mind, however, that this article makes it appear as if the differences between the text types is greater than it actually is. The vast majority of these 6000 differences involve very minor differences of spelling and word order.

Watch the video: Basil Lourié on Syrian and Armenian Christianity in Northern Macedonia from the 8th to the 9th C.