Gregory II the Martyrophile

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Gregory II the Martyrophile, (Armenian: Գրիգոր Բ. Վկայասէր), was the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church between 1066 and 1105.

On the death of Khachig II the Byzantines had hoped to leave Armenia without a pontiff for good, part of an effort to subdue them as a people and assimilate them into the Greek rite. However, Mary the daughter of King Gagik-Abas of Kars was a favorite of Byzantine Empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa and obtained through her influence the permission to fill the empty seat. A meeting of the clergy elected Gregory the Martyrophile, son of Gregorius Magistratus, as pontiff. Gregory had been engaged in literary pursuits from a young age, had been honored by the emperor as a Duke, and had succeeded his father on his death as governor of Mesopotamia. He had grown tired of the world and embraced a monastic life. On his election he changed his original name of Vahram to Gregory in honor of Gregory the Illuminator. His name the Martyrophile came from his having compiled the memoirs of Christian martyrs.

The Byzantine army invaded again and Gregory abdicated in 1071 since he was unable to stave off these problems. He appointed a monk George Lorensis as his successor and retired to a mountain around Tarsus. He was still regarded by the Armenian people as pontiff however and they referred to him for advice. Lorensis was offended by this and took imprudent measures as a response, at which point the clergy met at Gregory's retreat and deposed Lorensis. He had reigned for two years and Gregory resumed the office officially. At this same time a monk named Sarkis exercised control in his local region as pontiff and was succeeded by Theodorus, but none of them nor Lorensis are considered canon pontiffs. Shortly after regaining his position as pontiff around 1074, Gregory made a visit to Ani which at that point was in the hands of the Persians and resided there a few months. He then returned home and wrote a letter to Pope Gregory VII, who responded in a friendly manner. Gregory II traveled to Rome to visit the Pope who was very curious to learn about the Armenian church. After a few months, Gregory II then made pilgrimage to Jerusalem and then went to Memphis, Egypt where he lived for a year. He appointed a nephew of his, Gregorius, as prelate at Memphis and then finally returned home.

With Gregory II living in Tarsus, the eastern Armenians considered themselves without a pontiff and obtained his sanction to elect his nephew, Parsegh bishop of Ani, as their pontiff. Two years later, a prince who settled in Marash elected Paul, abbot of Varagavank, to be considered pontiff of the church in that region. This means there were now four pontiffs of the Armenian church: Gregory II in the region of Mount Tarsus, Parsegh his nephew in Ani for the eastern Armenians, the previously-mentioned Theodorus, and Paul in Marash. There was much enmity between them and the cause of much confusion. Paul saw this and decided to relinquish his seat and retire to his convent, at which time the nation at large recognized Gregory II alone as pontiff, with Parsegh as his deputy. In 1087 Parsegh deposed Theodorus and settled at Edessa.

In 1103, after many requests, Gregory II finally accepted the invitation of Kogh Vasil to move his residence to Rapan, in the vicinity of the city of Cheson, to spend his last years. As he left his Tarsus monastery, he took with him wards Gregory III of Cilicia and Nerses IV the Graceful, in whom he recognized future greatness. He entrusted the two preteens to the care of his nephew and deputy Parsegh as well as to his host Kogh Vasil, and stated that on his death Parsegh should be made Catholicos and after him should follow young Gregory. He died shortly after and was buried there at the red convent at Rapan near Cheson.

Preceded by
Khachig II of Cilicia
Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia
Succeeded by
Parsegh of Cilicia