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The Armenian Church Hierarchy

The hierarchical system of the Armenian Church consists of three main levels:

The Catholicos

On top of the hierarchy there is the Catholicos who represents the centralized authority of theArmenian Apostolic Church. The Catholicos receives the grace of the Holy Spirit and the powerto pass it on to the others through the laying on of hands and anointing from 12 bishops.

The Catholicos has the following responsibilities: to bless the Holy Chrism, to establish newdioceses, to bless new laws and dominical feasts, etc. The Catholicos is elected for life by theNational Ecclesiastical Assembly convened in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. TheAssembly consists of lay and clergy representatives of the Armenian Apostolic Church from allover the world.

The Bishop

The next level of the Armenian Church hierarchy is the bishop - the head and the spiritual leaderof the churches in a definite political-geographical region (diocese). Bishops are consecrated bythe Catholicos of the Armenian Church. They have the right of ordination and anointing ofpriests and blessing temples.

Bishops are elected from celibate priests who have a science degree of Archimandrite. A reallyoutstanding bishop can get a title of archbishop.

The Priest

The main level of the Armenian Church hierarchy is the priest appointed by the bishop. Thepriest’s responsibility is pastorship, or, in other words, spiritual education of the faithful, takingcare for spiritual revival of the faithful as well as the church services and sacraments. In the Armenian and Orthodox Churches priests can be celibate and married. After ordinationcelibate priests (monks) take a vow of celibacy and wear a special hood that symbolizes theirwithdrawing from the world.

In order to become a priest, a married person should be married at least for a year and have ason. A married priest can get a title of archpriest. A widower priest can get married for a secondtime or take a vow of celibacy.

The Reader and the Deacon

In the hierarchical system of the Armenian Church there are also two lower ranks: the reader(dlir) who combines various responsibilities (for example, he works as a lamplighter, a sacristan,a sexton, etc.) and the deacon who helps the priest in his pastoral work and during services. Thedeacon is elected among readers.

The Science Degrees

The Armenian Church clergy can get two types of science degrees:

  • Archimandrite (Vardapet) - equal to the Candidate of Sciences;
  • Protoarchimandrite (tsayraguyn Vardapet) - equal to the Doctor of Science.

These degrees are awarded only to celibate clergy and only by those bishops who have the titleof supreme Archimandrite.


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