Origin of the title Patriarch and Catholicos
Patriarch (Greek Patriarches; Latin Patriarcha) means the father or chief of a race or a family. The word occurs in the Septuagint for the leaders of the tribes; in the New Testament (Heb., 7, 4) it is applied to Abraham as a version of this title father of many nations (Gen., 17, 4), to David (Acts, 2, 29), and to the twelve sons of Jacob (Acts, 7, 8-9). This last became the special meaning of the word when used of Scriptural characters. The heads of the tribes were the Twelve Patriarchs, though the word is used also in a more general sense for the fathers of the Old Testament in general. Names of Christian dignitaries were in early days taken sometimes from civil life (episkopos, diakonos), sometimes borrowed from the Jews (presbyteros). The name patriarch is one of the latter class. Bishops of special dignity were called patriarchs just as deacons were called Levites, because their place corresponded by analogy to those in the Old Testament. All such titles became technical terms, official titles, only gradually. At first they were used loosely as names of honor without any strict connotations. As a Christian title of honor the word patriarch appears first as applied to Pope Leo I in a letter of Theodosius II (408-50; Mansi, VI, 68). The bishops of the Byzantine jurisdiction apply it to their leader, Acacius (471-89). Gradually then certainly from the eighth to ninth centuries the word becomes an official title, that of the chief bishops who ruled over metropolitans as metropolitans over their suffragan bishops, being themselves subject only to the first patriarch at Rome.
During the first five centuries Seleucia in Mesopotamia was under the Patriarchate of Antioch. In the fifth century, almost all the bishops of Seleucia-Ctesiphon bore the title of Catholicos, without, however, severing their relations with Antioch; hence, originally, the word Catholicos was not synonymous with patriarch. Among the Armenians also Catholicos was originally a simple title for the principal bishop of the country; he was subordinate to the See of Caesarea in Cappadocia. The bishops of Albania and Georgia, although independent of the Catholicos of Armenia, bore the same title.
The Title Catholicos-Patriarch in the Armenian Catholic Church
The head of the Armenian Catholic Church has always been called Catholicos since the recognition of the renewed Armenian Catholic Church in 1742 by the See of Rome.
In 1830, after the Turkish defeat by the French, Austrian and Russian allies, the Austrians in the Saint Stefan treaty, introduced a condition that obliged the Turks to accept the creation of the office of Patrik (that later was translated to Patriarch) for the Armenian Catholics. The Patrik was the head of the Armenian Catholic Community that resided in the Ottoman Empire; he could be a bishop, a priest or even a layman. But the custom was that he was mostly a bishop. The Patrik used to be elected from the most prominent among the people and the sultan used to confirm his election. He had nothing to do with the Catholicos and the Armenian Catholic Synod. The residence then of the Catholicos was established at Bzommar monastery in Lebanon.
After the death of the 8th Catholicos, Krikor Der Asdvatzadourian, the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church elected the Bishop Antoine Hassoun as the 9th Catholicos. Then, Antoine Hassoun was already Patrik in Constantinople. He had to leave his charge as a Patrik and transfer to Bzommar, the residence of the Catholicos. It was then, that Pope Pius IX, noting that the authority of the Patrik of Constantinople (which extended to the whole Ottoman Empire) was much broader than that of the Catholicos, who resided in Lebanon, decided to unite the two Sees, by transferring the Catholicosal See to Constantinople. He made it by a decree called Reversurus. So from 1867 (almost a year after the election of Hassoun) the two titles Patriarch-Catholicos were united in the person of the head of the Armenian Catholic Church. After the return of the Catholicosate to Bzommar (1928), these two titles always remained united.
His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX
Catolicos – Patriarch of Cilicia of the Catholic Armenians
Born in Cairo Egypt on the 17th January 1940 He is the 5th of a family of 8 children.He completed his primary and secondary studies at the College of the Brothers of Christian Schools (Frres des Ecoles Chrtiennes) in Cairo.
He felt the vocation to priesthood very early in life and thus was sent to the Armenian Leonian Pontifical College of Rome in 1958 where he studied Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
His Bishop Msgr. Raphael Bayan ordained him priest in Cairo on The 15th August 1965.He served the parish of the Catholic Armenian Cathedral of the Annunciation in Cairo from 1965 to 1968 with the Rev. Father Jean Kasparian who became Patriarch Catholicos under the name of Jean Pierre XVIII in 1982.
From 1968 to 1990 he was curate of the parish of St. Therese of Heliopolis (Cairo) where he encouraged the various religious movements, especially the Neo-Catechumenal Way.
On the 18th February 1990, he was ordained bishop of the Eparchy (Diocese) of Alexandria for Egypt and Sudan by the imposition of the hands of His Beatitude Jean Pierre XVIII.
During six years, from 1992 to 1997, as member of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt, he was the General Secretary of the Pastoral Council of the Catholic Church of Egypt.
As a member of the Synod of the Bishops of the Catholic Armenian Patriarch Church, he was successful in being:
Member of the Council of the three Bishops to direct the Patriarchal Curie from 1993 to 1995. President of the Patriarchal Commission for the Vocations from 1993 to 1995.
Member of the Permanent Synod as of 1994.
In October 1999, he was elected by the Bishops of the Holy Synod of the Catholic Armenian Synod, Patriarch Catholicos of Cilice for the Catholic Armenians and took the name of Nerses Bedros XIX.