Chronology of Catholic Dioceses:Notes on the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of Cilicia

The Armenian church was originally centered on Etchmiadzin, not far from modern Jerevan. In the 11th century, the ancient Armenian kingdom was destroyed. This kingdom had been a buffer state between the Persian and the Roman (Byzantine) Empires, and its territory included modern Armenia and parts of the surrounding modern states of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

Many Armenians fled south, to Cilicia (south central Asia Minor). A new Armenian kingdom was established there. Here the Armenians had extensive contacts with the Latin Crusaders. Although the new kingdom also seized to exist by the 14th century and the Armenian people were dispersed, they survived in spite of foreign domination.

In 1742 Pope Benedict XIV confirmed a former Armenian Apostolic bishop, Abraham Ardzivan (1679-1749) as Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, based in Bzommar in Lebanon, and with religious authority over the Armenian Catholics in the southern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. In the north, they continued to be under the Latin Vicar Apostolic of Constantinople. The new patriarch took the name Abraham Pierre I, and all the successors have likewise the name Peter in their ecclesiastical title.

The Ottoman millet system, which provided for the administrative autonomy of minorities under the direction of their religious leaders, had placed all Armenian Catholics under the civil jurisdiction of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch in Constantinople. This resulted in serious difficulties for Armenian Catholics and even persecutions until 1829 when, under French pressure, the Ottoman government gave them the right to be organized civilly as a separate millet, with an Archbishop of their own in Constantinople. In 1846 he has vested with the civil authority as well. The anomaly of having an Archbishop with both civil and religious authority in the Ottoman capital and an exclusively spiritual Patriarch in Lebanon was resolved in 1867 when Pope Pius IX united the two sees and moved the patriarchal residence to Constantinople.

In 1928, as part of the reorganization of the Armenian Catholic Church after the persecutions in Turkey, the Patriarchate returned to Bzommar, Lebanon. It is currently located in Beirut.

-CT (with James A. Derrick)

av Webmaster publisert 08.09.2004, sist endret 08.09.2004 - 12:11