FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The Constitution, as amended in 2005, provides for freedom of religion and the rights to practice, choose, or change religious belief. It recognizes “the exclusive mission of the Armenian Church as a national church in the spiritual life, development of the national culture, and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia.”
The law places some restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups other than the Armenian Church. The Law on Freedom of Conscience establishes the separation of church and state, but grants the Armenian Church official status as the national church.
The country has an area of about 29,743 km² (11,484 sq mi) and a population of about 3 million. Approximately 98 percent of the population is ethnic Armenian and an estimated 90 percent of citizens nominally belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an independent Eastern Christian denomination with its spiritual center at the Echmiadzin Cathedral. The head of the church is Catholicos Garegin (Karekin) II.
ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH
The Armenian Church is Apostolic because it was founded by two of Christ’s Apostles, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew. Armenians pride themselves to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as the official religion of their state (301 AD).
The Armenian Church believes in One God, the Father Almighty who is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. Man (male and female) is created in the image and likeness of God, and as such is a special creature. However, because of the fall of man, sin entered the world.
The Church believes in Jesus Christ, “the only begotten Son of God, who came down from heaven, was incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit. He became man, was crucified for us and suffered and was buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.
The Church believes in the Holy Spirit – uncreated and perfect, which proceeds from the Father- and together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and apostles and descended into the Jordan, witnessing Christ’s Baptism.
The Church believes in one Baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins. On judgment day, Christ will call all men and women who have repented to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom, which has no end. Christ overcame the power of death with His own and gave salvation to all mankind.
The Armenian Church belongs to the Orthodox family of churches, known as the Oriental Orthodox, or Non-Chalcedonian churches, such as Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian and Indian Malabar Orthodox churches.
The main theological differences and disagreements between the Eastern and the Church of Rome (Catholics) are in the following issues:
Papal Supremacy: the Roman Catholics consider the Pope the “Vicar of Christ”, while the Orthodox churches consider him only as “first in honor” and in pastoral Diakonia.
Papal Infallibility: The Catholics follow a “monarchical” model of ecclesial polity, while the Orthodox follow a “conciliar” model, with the church councils determine church dogma, canons and policies.
There are also other minor differences between these two branches of churches, such as the rules of fasting, unleavened bread at the Eucharist (West), manner of conferring confirmation, celibacy of clergy, divorce (not sanctioned by Roman Catholicism), purgatory (East doesn’t teach it), West has “scholastic’ approach, East has “mystical” approach to theological issues.
The main difference between the Byzantine tradition, also known as Chalcedonian churches, and the Armenian Church, (together with other Non-Chalcedonian churches) has been on the issue of Christology, the dogma related to Christ’s Divine and Human natures.
There are four hierarchical Sees in the Armenian Church:
The Catholicosate of All Armenians in Echmiadzin (established by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the 4th century).
The Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (established in Antelias, Lebanon in 1930, with its roots going back to the 13th century).
The Patriarchate of Jersualem (the St. James Brotherhood established the Patriarchate at the beginning of the 14th century).
The Patriarchate of Constantinople (established in 1461 by Sultan Mehmet II).
Each See has its own brotherhood, ecclesiastical jurisdiction and internal administrative bylaws. They are not separate churches, but are part of the One, Holy, Apostolic Church – the Armenian Church – and are one in dogma, theology and liturgy, and in their service to the Armenian nation.
There is a Reconstructionist Neopagan movement in Armenia with its adherents call themselves Hetanos, and their religion called Hetanism. The movement traces its roots in the work of the early 20th century political philosopher and revolutionary Garegin Nzhdeh and his doctrine of Tseghakron. The campaign is strongly associated with Armenian nationalism, as it receives some support from nationalist political parties of Armenia, particularly the Armenian Republican Party and the Union of Armenian Aryans.
Neopagans worship the gods of a reconstructed Armenian pantheon with a particular emphasis on the cult of the solar god Vahagn. They have reconsecrated the Temple of Garni (a Hellenistic style temple rebuilt in 1975, originally a temple to Mithra) and they use it for regular worship and as a center of their activity.
Azeris and Kurds living in Armenia traditionally practiced Islam, but most Azeris has fled the country due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. About 1,500 Muslims currently live in Armenia, and one 18th century Mosque in Yerevan remains open for Friday prayers.
Armenians did not convert to Islam in large numbers. During the Arabic conquest, Islam came to the Armenians, and not all Armenians converted to Islam, since Christians were not required to convert by Muslim law, and the absence of heavy taxation also hindered this. There is, however, a minority of ethnic Armenian Muslims, known as Hamshenis. But the vast majority of them live outside of Armenia, mostly in Turkey and Russia.
OTHER DENOMINATIONS AND SECTS
Armenian Catholic (170,000)
Roman Catholic (110,000)
Jehovah’s Witnesses (12,000)
Russian Orthodox (6,500)
Russian Molokans (5,000)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) (3,000)
Greek Orthodox (2,200)
Seventh-day Adventist (1,000)