Catholicos (plural Catholicoi) is a title used by the ruling bishop of a number of Christian churches in the middle east. Except for the ruling bishop of the Church of Georgia, most of these churches separated themselves from the Orthodox Church as result of the various Christological disputes during the first millennium of Christ’s Church.
The word Catholicos comes from the Greek καθολικός (Katholikos), pl. καθολικοί, meaning: concerning the whole, universal or general. The title seems to have originated among the churches on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire and within the Persian Empire around the third and fourth centuries. The Patriarch of Anitoch presided over much of this area. By the end of the fifth century almost all the local bishops used the title catholicos. Thus, the word catholicos at the time was not synonymous with patriarch.
During the Christological disputes, many of the Catholicates in the middle east came to reject the position of the Orthodox as expressed by the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, joining principally the Nestorian or Monophysitic heresies. Only the Church of Georgia remained Orthodox and retains use of Catholicos in the ruling hierarch’s title: His Holiness and Beatitude, Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia.
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