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Catholicos is a title used by the ruling bishops or primates of several churches in the Middle East. With the exception of the Georgian Orthodox Church none of these churches accept the Christology promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon.

The word itself comes from the Greek καθολικός (plural 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 Sassanian Empire around the third and fourth centuries. The Church of Antioch had jurisdiction over this region. 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. The Catholicate of Seleucia-Ctesiphon of the Church of the East, nominally subject to Antioch, accepted the first two ecumenical councils, but rejected the Council of Ephesus. The Catholicates of the Armenian Orthodox Church and the Arranian Orthodox Church accepted Ephesus and were initially ambivalent about Chalcedon, but eventually rejected its Christology as being too influenced by Nestorianism.

Following the schism of the Church of the East after the Council of Ephesus the catholicate died out in the Church of Antioch, only to be revived later by the Syriac Orthodox Church, first in its original seat in Mesopotamia and later in southern India.

See also