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. 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 our devoted nation and people on the luminous paths of fulfilling the primary mission of our Church – leading people to God.
The Armenian Church has changed and developed to meet the needs of the faithful over her 1700 year history. Administratively, great care has been taken to be inclusive of a wide cross-section of the faithful. Both clergy and lay are involved in today’s administrative structure of the Church. Led by His Holiness, Karekin II, the spiritual and administrative work of the Armenian Church is carried out in the Republic of Armenia in the areas of Religion, Preparation of Clergy, Christian Education, Construction of new Churches, Social Services, and Ecumenical activities. Underneath this administrative structure are the hierarchal Sees:
- The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia located in Antelias, Lebanon, is a regional See with current jurisdiction of the Dioceses of Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus as temporarily granted to her by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1929, led by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I.
- The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem which has jurisdiction over all of the Holy Lands and the Diocese of Jordan, led by His Beatitude Archbishop Nourhan Manoukian.
- The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople and All of Turkey, which has jurisdiction in the modern day Republic of Turkey led by His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan.
The three historic aforementioned hierarchal sees administer to the Dioceses under their jurisdiction as they see fit, however, the supremacy of the Catholicosate of All Armenians in all spiritual matters remains pre-eminent.
In addition to the responsibilities of overseeing their respective Dioceses, each hierarchical See, including the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, has a Monastic Brotherhood.
Regionally, each area of the world where the Armenian Church and faithful are located has Dioceses, which are led by a Primate from the Diocesan Headquarters. Each Diocese is made up of Parishes and communities.
The spiritual and administrative bodies representing the authority of the Armenian Church are the following:
The National Ecclesiastical Assembly
is the supreme legislative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the National Ecclesiastical Assembly are elected by the individual Diocesan Assemblies. The National Ecclesiastical Assembly elects the Catholicos of All Armenians.
The Council of Bishops
is an administrative-deliberative body presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. It makes suggestions on the dogmatic, religious, church, parish and canonical issues to be discussed as agenda items during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.
The Supreme Spiritual Council
is the highest executive body of the Armenian Church and is presided over by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The members of the Council can be elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly or appointed by the Catholicos of All Armenians. The Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Gevorg V. Soorenian established the Supreme Spiritual Council on January 1, 1924, to replace the Synod of Bishops.
The Diocesan Assembly
is the highest legislative (canonical) body of each Diocese and is headed by the Primate of the Diocese. The Diocesan delegates (representatives of each parish community) elect the delegates to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, the members of the Diocesan Council as well as discuss and decide on administrative issues within the Diocese such as committees, budgets, building, etc. In some Dioceses, the Diocesan Assembly elects the Primate of the Diocese.
The Diocesan Council
is the highest executive power of a diocese, presided over by the Primate of the Diocese. It regulates the inner administrative activity of the Diocese under the direction of the Primate. The Diocesan Assembly elects members of the Diocesan Council.
The Monastic Brotherhood
is comprised of the celibate clergy of the monastery who are led by the Abbot. At present, there are three brotherhoods in the Armenian Church – the brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the brotherhood of St. James at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the brotherhood of the See of Cilicia. Each Armenian celibate priest becomes a member of the brotherhood in which he has studied and ordained in or under the jurisdiction of which he has served. The brotherhood makes decisions concerning the inner affairs of the monastery. Each brotherhood elects two delegates who take part in the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.
The Parish Assembly
is the general assembly of the community presided over by the spiritual pastor. The Parish Assembly elects or appoints the members of the Parish Council and the representatives or delegates to the Diocesan Assembly.
The Parish Council
is the executive-administrative body of the community. It is presided over by the spiritual pastor of the community who takes up the inner administrative affairs of the parish and is engaged in the realization of its administrative and financial activities. Members of the Parish Council are elected or appointed at the Parish Assembly.