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 Antioch 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 rejected certain of the later Ecumenical Councils, with most becoming Oriental Orthodox Churches and one becoming known as the Church of the East. Only the catholicate of the Church of Georgia accepted Ephesus, Chalcedon, and the councils which followed them. It retains use of catholicos in its first hierarch’s title, which is 'Catholicos-Patriarch of Mtskheta, Tbilisi, and All Georgia.'
- Church of Antioch (Syriac)
- Church of India
- Church of Armenia
- Assyrian Church of the East
- Catholicosate of Cilicia
- Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church
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