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Christianity / Orientations /
Armenian Orthodox Church



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Armenian Orthodox church in Baghdad, Iraq.

Armenian Orthodox by country
Last column: % Armenian Orthodox of the population
Egypt 7,000 <0.1%
Iran 550,000 0.8%
Iraq 20,000 0.1%
Israel 9,000 0.1%
Jordan 70,000 1.0%
Kuwait 1,000 <0.1%
Lebanon 120,000 4.0%
Palestine 1,000 <0.1%
Syria 140,000 0.9%
Turkey 80,000 0.12%
Total *) 1,000,000 0.2%
Other countries 500,000

*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.

Vespers service during Lent in the The Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem, Israel.
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Vespers service during Lent in the The Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem, Israel. The service was held completely in the dark except for oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. Photo: J McDowell.

Armenian Orthodox Christmas mass in Bethlehem, Palestine.
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Armenian Orthodox Christmas mass and procession inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem January 18, 2011. Photo: Beautiful Faces of Palestine.

Armenian Orthodox Bible.
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Armenian Orthodox Bible. Photo: Beautiful Faces of Palestine.

Armenian Orthodox church in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon.
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Armenian Orthodox church in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon. Photo: Nicholas A. Heras.

Armenian Orthodox church in Aleppo, Syria.
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Armenian Orthodox church in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: upyernoz.

Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Van Lake, Turkey.
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Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Van Lake, Turkey. Photo: James Gordon.

Christian church of the Middle East, with Armenian members. There are about 1 million members of the church in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, with an additional 500,000 living in Western countries like the USA.
In Lebanon the Armenian Orthodox (see article on the term 'Orthodox') live in central parts of the country, in Iraq they mainly live in Baghdad. In Israel most live in Jerusalem. In Palestine, the few Armenian Orthodox live in Bethlehem and Ramallah.
The Armenian Orthodox Church is also called The Armenian Apostolic Church. This name is based upon the belief that Armenia was christianized by the two apostles, Bartholomew and Thaddeus.
The Armenian Orthodox Church has one of the oldest traditions in the Christian world. It has not developed in a vacuum, there have been close contacts with the Syrian church from which it has received scriptures, liturgy and much of its theology.
The organization of the Armenian Orthodox Church is unusually complex. This is the result of much internal tension, in which opposing groups often founded new institutions and positions.
Today, the highest position is the Katholikos, a sort of archbishop. There are 2 Katholikos, the supreme one in Echmiadzin, Armenia, and the Katholikos of the Middle East, located in Antelias, Lebanon. Then there are 2 patriarchs, one in Istanbul, Turkey, and one in Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine. While the Katholikos of Echmiadzin is officially the head of the church, many believers support the Katholikos in Antelias.

History
Around 300: Christianity becomes state religion of Armenia, when the king is converted by Gregory the Illuminator. He establishes his headquarters in Echmiadzin (in modern Armenia).
4th century: Breaks from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and keeps close ties with the Syrian church. The Armenian church even uses the Syriac alphabet.
5th century: An Armenian alphabet is invented, and many scriptures are translated into Armenian.
Around 500: The Armenian Church rejects the conclusion of the Council of Chalcedon (in 451) which had defined Jesus as having 2 natures, divine and human, coexisting in one person.
485: The headquarters are moved to Dvin.
506: The Armenian Church adopts the Monophysite doctrine, that Jesus has only one, divine, nature.
7th century: The Georgian branch breaks away from the Armenian Church, and joins the Greek Orthodox Church. The Armenian continues its cooperation with the Coptic Church and Syrian Jacobite churches.
1293: The headquarters are moved to Sis (now Kozan, Turkey).
14th century: The patriarchate of Jerusalem is founded by local Christians.
1441: The headquarters of the church moves to Echmiadzin. Here a new institution was established, the "Katholikos of all Armenians".
1461: An Armenian patriarchate of Constantinople (now Istanbul) is created by sultan Mehmed 2, in order to have a leader of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, so that it would be easier to conduct politics towards his Armenian subjects.
1742: A part of the Armenian church breaks off to form the Armenian Catholic Church.
1915-18: The Armenians suffer heavy persecution from the Ottoman regime, when about 1 million are killed. See Armenian Genocide.
1930: The Katholikos of Sis moves to Antelias in Lebanon, as a way of seeking refuge from possible future oppression from Muslim rulers.




By Tore Kjeilen