His Holiness Karekin II
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
He entered the seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1965, graduating with honors in 1971. For a year after graduation he taught at the seminary. He was ordained as a deacon in 1970 and a monk (celibate priest) in 1972, at which time he received the priestly name Karekin. Shortly thereafter, His Holiness Vasken I (Catholicos of All Armenians, 1956-1994) sent the new priest to Vienna to study theology. In 1975, Fr. Nersissian moved to Germany, where he studied and graduated from Bonn University while serving as pastor to the local Armenian community. Following a brief return to Armenia, he enrolled in postgraduate studies at the Russian Orthodox Academy in Zagorsk, Russia, from which he graduated in 1979.
In March 1980, he entered the service of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, the Armenian Church’s most populous diocesan jurisdiction, which incorporates the capital, Yerevan, and the vicinity of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Appointed head of that diocese in June 1983, he was elevated to the rank of Bishop on October 23rd of that year, by the hand of His Holiness Vasken I. Catholicos Vasken granted him the title of Archbishop in November 1992.
During the past decade, Archbishop Nersissian has been a prominent figure in Armenia’s religious, social, and cultural life. The charitable missions he has launched have helped his flock in their struggle to build a free and decent society from the physical ruins of the 1988 earthquake, and from the spiritual debris of Armenia’s Soviet period. He has been notable for using technology, especially television broadcasts, as a tool of evangelism and outreach. Following the death of Catholicos Vasken I, Archbishop Nersissian was a candidate for the pontifical throne during the National Ecclesiastical Assembly of April 1995, but conceded victory to His Holiness Karekin Sarkissian, who thereafter became Catholicos Karekin I (Catholicos of All Armenians, 1995-1999). The latter, being treated for cancer in New York, appointed Archbishop Nersissian as the Vicar General of Holy Etchmiadzin in November 1998, in which capacity Nersissian served until the late Catholicos’ death in June 1999.
He 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.