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).
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.
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 . The Armenians remained loyal to their faith, repeatedly refused to disavow Christ. In 451, headed by the commander-in-chief Vartan Mamikonian, Armenians fought against the Persians to preserve their faith.
St. Vartan fell in the battle field of Avarair, and while Armenians were physically defeated, spiritually they were eventually victorious in preserving their faith in Chirst.
Today, the Armenian Church is dispersed throughout every continent of the world. Scattered about from centuries of attempting to escape persecution and most recently the Genocide of 1915 - 1923, Armenians have established communities and built churches wherever their fate delivered them. As the balance of the Armenian population has shifted throughout time, the Church has strived to meet the needs of her people. She has a distinct hierarchy, which maintains a balance within the Church herself. The center of this balance has always been the Catholicosate of All Armenians, and the heart of the Church, where She receives her lifeblood, is the global headquarters of the Armenian Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is the pre-eminent center of authority in the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church. Located near the capital of Yerevan in the Republic of Armenia, it is composed of:
The Mother Cathedral of the entire Armenian Church;
The monastery and monastic brotherhood;
The residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians;
Various religious and cultural institutions, such as the Kevorkian Theological Seminary and a museum
The cathedral dates back to the 4th century, and is reckoned the oldest Christian cathedral in world. Although the current sanctuary was erected in the 1600s, remnants of the 4th-century altar have been unearthed beneath the present structure.
His Holiness Karekin II was elected the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians on October 27, 1999, when more than 450 delegates from Armenian Church jurisdictions around the world met in a National Ecclesiastical Assembly at Holy Etchmiadzin, the Church’s Mother See, located in the Republic of Armenia. His consecration and enthronement followed on November 4th. As the 132nd in a continuous line of Catholicoi dating back to the Fourth Century, Catholicos Karekin II presides over the Supreme Spiritual Council (the Armenian Church’s governing college of bishops), and is the chief shepherd of the world’s 7 million Armenian Apostolic Christians.