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The Armenian Apostolic Church is the national church of the Armenian people. Sometimes referred to as the Armenian Orthodox Church or, more simply, the Armenian Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and one of the most ancient Christian communities. The Church is also known as the Gregorian Church, although this is not a name that is preferred by Church leadership, as the Church considers the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus to be its founders, and Saint Gregory the Illuminator as the first official governor and patron of the Church. Gregory was born in Armenia in 260 AD, and baptized in Caesarea of Cappadocia (Kayseri, Turkey). He married and fathered two sons before being ordained in Caesarea. Returning to Armenia, Gregory was instrumental in persuading the king to embrace Christianity, and make Armenia the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion, although it was already a significant religion there. King Tiridates declared Gregory to be the first Catholicos of the Armenian Church, and sent him to Caesarea to be consecrated. The Armenian Church believes in apostolic succession through Bartholomew and Thaddeus, and can trace its lineage from the work of these Apostles. Originally, the Armenian Church participated in the larger Church, and its Catholicos was represented at the First Council of Nicea. In 353, King Papas appointed Catholicos Husik without first sending him to Caesarea for commissioning, but its Catholicos was still represented at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. During the 5th century, the Bible was translated into the Armenian language, a task that was made easier with the introduction of a 36-letter alphabet. Prior to that time, Armenian was a spoken language, but not a written one. The subsequent translation of the Bible, Liturgy, and other works of history, literature and philosophy encouraged Armenians to participate in creating its own literature. The Armenian Catholicos Isaac Parthiev was unable to attend the Council of Ephesus in 431, but sent a message agreeing with its decisions. However, non-doctrinal elements in the 451 Council of Chalcedon caused some problems to arise between the Armenian Church and Rome. At the First Council of Dvin in 506, the Synod of Armenian, Georgian, and Caucasian Albanian bishops were assembled, and prepared to make their positions known regarding the previous Council of Chalcedon. The disagreements were not resolved, but a schism did not occur between the Armenian, Georgian and Albanian churches until the Third Council of Dvin in 609. The Georgian Church disagreed with the Armenian Church, which had approved the Christology of Chalcedon. As a result, the Georgian Church was deprived from taking communion in the Armenian Church, while the Albanian Church remained under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Church while simultaneously remaining in communion with the Georgian Church. Although the Armenian Church agreed in principle with the Roman Catholic belief in the one divine nature of Christ (monophysis), it disagreed with the formula defined by the Council of Chalcedon. As a result, the Armenian Church severed ties with Rome and Constantinople in 554. The Armenian Church holds to the doctrine defined by Cyril of Alexandria, who described the nature of Jesus Christ as being of one incarnate nature, where both divine and human nature are united, whereas the Roman Catholic Church believes in the dual nature of Christ, divine and human, and the Georgian Church believes that Christ is fully divine. In recent years, both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches have developed a better understanding of the different positions, maintaining their theological language while recognizing general agreement. Doctrinally, the Armenian Apostolic Church acknowledges the first three ecumenical Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus, but not of Chalcedon. It renounces the teachings of Nestorius and the monophysitism of Eutyches, but administers the traditional seven sacraments (Baptism, Christmation, Holy Communion, Penance, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Ordination). The Divine Liturgy is conducted in Armenian, while bilingual prayer books are used in English speaking countries and, particularly in the United States, sermons may be delivered in English. In the United States, a segment of the Church broke away from the Armenian Church during the Cold War, when Russia dominated Armenia. The breakaway Church is known as the Armenian Catholic Church.

 

 

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