His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, (baptismal name Ktrij Nersisyan) was born on 21 August, 1951 in the village of Voskehat, Etchmiadzin region. He received his primary education in his native village. In 1965, he admitted to the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. On December 25, 1970, the Feast Day of St. Stephen the Protomartyr he was ordained to the Diaconate. In 1971 he graduated the Seminary with distinction and was appointed as Assistant of the Dean, simultaneously teaching the subject “New Tastement”.
In 1972 he was ordained a Celibate priest by His Eminence Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, and was given the priestly name of Karekin. In the same year, by the order of the blessed His Holiness Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians; he left for Vienna to continue his studies at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Vienna. In 1975 he was appointed to serve as Pastor of the Armenian community in Germany, while continuing his theological education at the University of Bonn. In 1979 he returned to the Mother See and and by the order of Catholicos Vasken I left for Zagorsk (Russia) to continue his studies at the postgraduate course of the Spiritual Academy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1980 he was appointed to serve as the Assistant to the Vicar General of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese and in April 1983 he was appointed as Vicar. In October of the same year he was consecrated as a Bishop and in 1992 he was granted Archbishop's honor and title.
In 1989 under the auspices of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, His Eminence Archbishop Karekin Nersisyan established the Vaskenian Theological Academy of Sevan.
In 1990 he established the Christian Education Center in the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, which was coordinated by the Christian education carried out in the territory of the Diocese, in number of 56 public schools.
In 1992, thanks to the efforts of His Eminence Archbishop Karekin, by the decision of the RA Government, three of the pioneer palaces in the capital were transferred to the Armenian Apostolic Church and were reorganized for the purpose of spiritual and aesthetic education of children and teenagers and were called Youth Centers. The activities of these educational institutions have been possible to be continuously effective with the sincere support of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the great national benefactor, President of the Armenian General Benevolent Union Mrs. Louise Manoogian Simone.
Since 1990, His Eminence has been a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council.
In 1993, by the order of His Holiness Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians; he has been appointed as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission and responsible head of internal affairs and departments of the Mother See. The composition of the commission was expanded in 1994.
In 1995, during the Catholicosal election, His Eminence Archbishop Karekin Nersisyan was one of the candidates. In the third round of the election, he withdrew his candidacy in favor of Catholicos Karekin II of the Great House of Cilicia.
From 1997 to 2000 he was a member of the Pardon Commission assisting the President of the Republic of Armenia.
In 1998 he was appointed as Catholicossal Vicar General by His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians.
On 27 October 1999 he was elected as Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly and on November 4 he received Catholicosal ordination and consecration.
After his enthronement, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II made pilgrimages to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and made a pontifical visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, where he raised before the Turkish public the necessity of acceptance and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide by the world and by Turkey in particular.
From the months following the enthronement, the Pontifical and Patriarchal visits of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians started to the Armenian Apostolic Church dioceses in Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora. During the visits, His Holiness conveys comfort and spiritual care to thousands of faithful Armenians with his presence and blessings, he also meets with Presidents and statesmen of different countries, discusses urgent issues related to the Armenian Church, the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh, and the Armenian people.
Emphasizing the strengthening of inter-church ties, since 2000, His Holiness has been visiting Sister Churches and their heads, and also at the Armenian spiritual center, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and receiving heads of the Sister Churches, clergymen and various church delegations. His Holiness attaches importance to the membership of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church in the World Council of Churches and sees the ecumenical activities as part of his mission, to which the establishment of the Office of Inter-Church Relations in the Holy Etchmiadzin is proof of his zealous attitude. A new phase of cooperation with the World Council of Churches has begun with the mission of the Armenian office of the WCC Armenia Round Table Foundation of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin which is expanding further with the encouragement of His Holiness Karekin II. In order to further strengthen and develop the various programs implemented in this field, since 2000, there have been bilateral visits between representatives of the World Council of Churches and the Catholicosate of All Armenians. His Holiness also meets with representatives of foreign religions and heads of religions, speaks and reports on the preservation of universal values, universal peace, love, solidarity and effective cooperation in the world. The representatives of His Holiness constantly participate in ecumenical conferences and congresses, conveying the messages of the Catholicos of All Armenians.
In this regard, the meetings of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II with Sheikh ul-Islam Haji Allahshukur Hummat Pashazade, the President of the Caucasian Muslims Department, which began with the mediation of Patriarch Alex II of Moscow and All Russia, to promote the peaceful settlement of the Artsakh issue, stand out. These trilateral meetings continued with the efforts of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The last meeting took place after the 44-day Artsakh war, on October 13 in 2021, during which His Holiness condemned the expansionist ambitions of Azerbaijan, the propaganda of Armenian hatred, the non-release of captives of war, the encroachments on the state borders of the Republic of Armenia, the desecration and destruction of the Armenian historical and cultural heritage, monasteries and churches in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan, the attempts to appropriate them and deprive them of their identity, highlighting the clarification and recognition of the status of the Republic of Artsakh and guaranteeing the realization of the right to an independent life of Artsakh Armenians.
Since the election, His Holiness has been working with all his energy to regulate and organize the inner life of the church. During the Patriarchate of Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, progress was made in the spiritual and educational institutions of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church. With his efforts, the spiritual educational institutions of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin were revived: the Gevorkian Theological Seminary of Etchmiadzin; the Vaskenian Theological Academy of Sevan; the Priest Accelerated Course; the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy of Calcutta and in 2012 the Harijavank Trpanchyan High School was established and carried out effective activities. The zeal of His Holiness for educational activities was evident even during the years of the vicarship of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, when the future Patriarch established the Vaskenian Theological Academy in Sevan. The progress of spiritual academies was especially connected with the selection of high-quality professors and the development of new curricula, which were carried out with the direct participation and leadership of the Patriarch of All Armenians. Considering the higher educational program of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary, as well as in order to further expand the opportunity for students of the seminary to continue their studies in higher educational institutions abroad, His Holiness appealed to the RA Government to recognize the Gevorkian Theological Seminary as a higher educational institution. As a result, the Gevorkian Theological Seminary became a state-recognized Theological University, and the Vaskenian Academy of Sevan became its branch. The Harijavank Trpanchyan High School provides spiritually oriented education in the high school program, preparing students for admission to the Gevorkian Seminary.
The head teacher and Vicar of the Theological University of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary is the Catholicos of All Armenians. Patriarch Karekin II is also the President of the Scientific Council of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary, which in his capacity, through his authorized representative, manages the educational, scientific and cultural activities of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary, the sessions of the Scientific Council and implements other powers defined by the RA legislation and the Gevorkian Theological Seminary charter.
His Holiness is also a member of the teaching staff of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary. His Holiness is currently teaching the subject of "Preaching" at the seminary, teaching his students the principles and means of preaching the word of God and delivering spiritual truths to the faithful. His Holiness always pays great attention to the best organization of educational work in the seminary, emphasizing also the continuation of the education of worthy seminary graduates in higher educational institutions of other countries. Many seminary graduates continue their education in prestigious higher educational institutions of different countries and Sister Churches. It is the desire of His Holiness that upon returning, student clergymen from abroad will give a new charge to the monastic and Brotherhood life of the Armenian Church, strengthening the spirit of study within the Church, giving new impetus to the important work of creating and publishing high-value scientific, theological and Ecclesiastical-scientific works and studies.
During the enthronement of His Holiness, a new generation of clergy was educated, Christian preaching became more active, many churches and monasteries were renovated. The Youth Centers, have close ties with spiritual and educational institutions, which were founded in 1992 on the direct initiative of Archbishop Karekin Nersisyan, the future Patriarch, and with the support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union. With the efforts of skilled teachers and pedagogues in the Youth Centers, the creative abilities of children and teenagers attending Youth Centers are developed, and at the same time, they also receive Christian education. Youth associations operate next to the Youth Centers, thanks to which many young people become more connected to the Mother Church, learning to appreciate the sacred spiritual values and be guided by them throughout their lives. There are also Sunday schools operating in the dioceses of the Apostolic Church, where school-age children get to know the Bible and important principles of faith. In 2007, with the blessings of the Patriarch of All Armenians, the World Youth Union of the Armenian Church was also founded, the central office of which operates in Yerevan, next to the St. Anna Church.
The ACYOWorld unites the youth and youth unions of the dioceses of Armenia, Artsakh and Diaspora, carries out events, trainings, pilgrimages, religious courses and ceremonies and periodic meetings with the Armenian Patriarch.
In order to help elderly people in need of care, during the years of the vicarage of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, on the initiative of His Holiness and with the support of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, charitable canteens were established, which operated under the auspices of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, and now 5 canteens continue their activities in different cities of Armenia, under the auspices of the Social Services Office of the Mother See. The students of the Youth Centers deliver food to the elderly who are unable to attend charity canteens, which contributes to the cultivation of the virtues of mercy and servitude in the souls of teenagers and young people.
His Holiness has initiated the support program for orphaned children since 1988, when he was the vicar of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese, which continues to this day, providing assistance to unilaterally or bilaterally orphaned children.
His Holiness, emphasizing the restoration of centuries-old traditions of monastic life, is doing great work in this direction as well. In order to revitalize the activities of monasteries and restore monastic life, renovation works were carried out in Geghard, Khor Virap, St. Gayane, St. Hripsime, Haghartsin and Tatev monasteries. During them, various important issues are discussed, which are related to the inner life of the monasteries and the most effective and purposeful activity of the Brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the revitalization of spiritual and national-ecclesiastical life, in particular, the increase of the role of the Holy Apostolic Church in the life of the people in the dioceses of Armenia and the Diaspora.
In the very first year of his enthronement, His Holiness established the "Garegin I" theological-Armenian center, for which a separate beautiful building was built in the territory of the Mother See by Mr. Hayk and Elsa Didizian in 2015. The establishment of the Matenadaran in Etchmiadzin named after the benefactors Vatche and Tamar Manoogian is also significant, whose rich library greatly contributes to the strengthening of the scientific and theological thought of the Brotherhood of the Mother See and the spiritual servants of the Armenian Church. Not only the clergymen, but also intellectuals, students, and the reading public have the opportunity to work in the Matenadaran and use the rich collection of literature.
In order to further emphasize the role of the Church in the life of the Armenian people, as well as for the spiritual awakening of the Armenians, one of the important achievements implemented by His Holiness was the declaration of special days of blessing according to the relevant church holidays, which brought great vitality to the Armenian-ecclesiastical life. By the Patriarchal order, the Presentation of our Lord to the Temple (Tearnandaraj) was declared as the Day of Blessing of the Newlyweds; the Day of St. Sargis the Warrior - the Day of Blessing of the Youth; the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary - the Day of Blessing of Mothers; Palm Sunday - the Day of Blessing of Children; and the Day of the Holy Evangelists - the Day of Blessing of Doctors.
The Repressed Churchmen's Remembrance Day and Graduates' Blessing Day, New Year's Eve, the Blessing of the Pomegranates ceremony were also established. In order to strengthen the faith and pious feelings of the Armenian people around the world and to revalue the cherished memories of spiritual and church life, the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II declared days of pilgrims. The feast of the Ascension of Christ, when it commemorates the relocation of the Patriarchal See from the city of Sis in Western Armenia to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1441, as well as the Feast of the Universal Church of Holy Etchmiadzin, were declared the pilgrimage days of the Holy Etchmiadzin. Also, according to the order of His Holiness, the feast day of Apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, when the Holy Lance of Geghard is brought out, and Divine Liturgy is offered in Holy Etchmiadzin, is declared a day of pilgrimage.
Through the signing of the Memorandum in 2000 by His Holiness, the service of the clergy in the Armenian Army was ratified, the Spiritual Leadership in the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia was confirmed. The cross of the great Armenian king Ashot the Iron enclosing the relic of Jesus Christ’s cross was proclaimed by the Patriarch of Armenia as the guardian of the Armenian army, and blessed processional banners were presented to the military units.
By the order of His Holiness Karekin II, new dioceses were created for the effective organization of ecclesiastical activities and the better regulation of the service of spiritual ministers: Dioceses of France, the Baltic countries, Artik, Vayots Dzor, Tavush, Masyatsotn, and the Pontifical Delegation of the Balkan countries was also established.
During the enthronement of the Catholicos of All Armenians, many newly built churches were consecrated, new churches ground blessing ceremonies were held, reconstruction works of historical monasteries and monastic complexes were completed. On September 23, 2001, the consecration of St. Gregory the Illuminator church was held by His Holiness Karekin II, which was part of the celebrations of the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia.
During the enthronement of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the construction works carried out in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin are the following:
The St. Trdat Open Air Altar and St. Gregory the Illuminator gate (benefactors Mrs. Louise Manoogian Simone and Mr. Senik Gevorgyan),
The Auditorium of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary (benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Petros and Anna Orunchagchiels),
Chapel of the Holy Archangels (benefactor Mr. Gagik Galstyan),
Saint Vardan and Saint John the Baptist chapel-baptistry (benefactor Mr. Armen Sargsyan),
The Chancellery (benefactors Mr. And Mrs. Nazar and Artemis Nazaryans),
The New Brotherhood building along with the canteen (benefactor Mr. Richard Manukyan),
Yeremian building (benefactor Martikian family) were repaired.
On the initiative of His Holiness, the territory of the Mother See was significantly expanded to 50 ha, with the return of the territories previously belonging to the Mother See and the acquisition of new territories.
By the order of His Holiness, the building of the Publishing house of the Mother See was thoroughly renovated. During the renovation works, the 1888 memorial plaque of Catholicos Makar I of Teghut on the construction of the Publishing house was found on the outside of the foundation of the Publishing house. His Holiness, giving an important place to the activities of the museums of the Mother See, also initiated the thorough renovation of the former Khrimian Museum in the courtyard of the Old Residence, for the exhibition of the paintings of Arshil Gorky, a talented child of the Armenian people and a world-famous artist and the founder of American Expressionism. In response to the desire of Hovhannes Chilinkiryan, a devoted son of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church and philanthropist, to exhibit in Armenia the paintings and archival materials authored by his famous uncle, a famous poet and doctor, Ruben Sevak, a martyr of the Genocide, the "Ruben Sevak" museum was established at the Mother See on the recommendation and initiative of His Holiness and with the benevolence of Hovhannes Chilinkiryan. The museum also presents the valuable collection of paintings of Western Armenian artists by Mr. Hovhannes Chilinkiryan, which the blessed Armenian donated to the Mother See with a heartfelt commitment.
During the AGBU presidency of Mrs. Louise Manoogian Simone, a great national philanthropist, the former Institute of Proctology was donated to the Mother See by the AGBU. With the care and support of His Holiness the Patriarch, under the patronage of Mr. Sarkis and Mrs. Marie Izmirlyans, as well as with the contribution of Mrs. Louise Manoogian Simone, the hospital was renovated and equipped with new modern medical equipment, renaming it to "Izmirlyan" Medical Center after the benefactors.
Among the large-scale construction works, approved new buildings and renovations carried out in the Mother See, one of the notable achievements is the thorough renovation of the Old Residency, the construction of the adjoining ceremony hall, the Holy Patriarchs Chapel, thanks to the commendable and heartfelt donation of national philanthropists Mr. and Mrs. Samvel and Eteri Karapetyan. One of the most important and greatest achievements of His Holiness's construction activities is the thorough renovation of the Mother Cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin and the surrounding area with nationwide fundraising and generous donations from philanthropic Armenians.
The construction activities of the Catholicos of All Armenians also include projects in the city of Vagharshapat. Among them, the Vagharshapat Dental Center is worth mentioning, which provides medical support especially to the needy residents of the surrounding villages, clergymen and seminary students. The "Eurnekian" public school was built with the generous benevolence of the famous philanthropist Eduardo Eurnekian. Founded by His Holiness, the "Naggashian" childcare center in Yerevan and the "Kyurkchyan" center in Vagharshapat are effectively functioning.
The Patriarch of All Armenians Karekin II, emphasizing the technological education of the new generation, initiated the construction of the Tumo Center in the territory of the Mother See, where teenagers and young people will develop their skills and gain educational experience in this field for free.
With the efforts of His Holiness, funds have been created with the support of philanthropic Armenians to make the mission of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and its structures, as well as spiritual and educational institutions effective.
During the 44-day Artsakh war, that began on September 20, 2020, the Armenian Apostolic Church, under the leadership of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, brought great support to the native state and the Armenian army. At the urge of His Holiness, the dioceses of the Armenian Church and Diaspora provided great material aid to the state and the army through the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. By the direction of His Holiness, every day at noon until the end of the war, the bells of all Armenian churches were rung, and prayers were offered for the support of the Armenian army. His Holiness also appealed to Armenians to enlist as volunteers in the sacred cause of national defense and to support the soldiers of the Armenian army. With the blessing of the Armenian Patriarch, clergymen from different dioceses of Armenia and the Diaspora, and the spiritual servants of the Armenian army, were always by the side of the soldiers to inspire them, to baptize the unbaptized, to give Holy Communion before the battles, and to serve the spiritual needs of the fighting soldiers. After the war, the Social Service Office of the Mother See, which was established by His Holiness in 2014, in order to implement social support and development programs in Armenia and Artsakh, under the direction of the Catholicos of All Armenians, also undertook to support the urgent task of providing material aid and shelter to many forcibly displaced Artsakh citizens. In the post-war period, the Mother See also supported Armenians in extreme need, as well as families with killed, captured and missing children. With the initiative and blessing of His Holiness, the program of treatment and prosthetics for disabled soldiers as a result of military operations is being carried out, with which Armenians wounded in battles for the defense of the homeland receive high-quality treatment and prosthetics abroad.
Under the leadership of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church continues its divine service, leading the faithful people on the path of salvation, being zealous within the heart of the soul-saving mission in the efforts of Armenian preservation, the Armenian and Christian upbringing of the new generation, the development of culture, the strengthening of the Armenian state, and the establishment of a peaceful and safe life for the Armenian people.