Mkrtich I Khrimyan, also known as Khrimyan Hayrik (Father Khrimyan), was born on April 4, 1820, in Van, Western Armenia.
Khrimyan received primary education from his uncle Khachatur in his family village and religious education in the theological schools of Lima and Ktuts (Vaspurakan, Historical Armenia).
In 1842, Khrimyan moved to Constantinople where he would work as a teacher in the Armenian school of the Hasgyugh district. In 1854, he returned to Van where he was ordained a monk in the monastery of Akhtamar.
Soon, Khrimyan was appointed the rector of the Varag monastery, in which he founded a boarding seminary. At the same time, he established a printing house in Constantinople. Since 1858, the printing house has printed the “Artsvi Vaspurakan” magazine, which would play a big role in the life of the Armenian intellectuals of Van, Constantinople, and entire Armenia.
In 1860, Mkrtich Khrimyan visited the eastern areas of Armenia. The purpose of this visit was to at least somehow help the Armenian peasants and alleviate their situation. During his trip, he visited Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, Syunik, Artsakh, and Tbilisi.
In 1862, Khrimyan received the position of the spiritual leader of Taron and rector of the monastery of St. Karapet. In 1868, he was ordained a bishop in Etchmiadzin, and a year later, contrary to the wishes of the Sultan and the Ottoman government, he was elected the Patriarch of All Armenians of Constantinople.
Mkrtich Khrimyan was an active supporter of the struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and hostility towards the Armenians. His bold decisions and plans haven’t always found support, however. Pressurized by the Ottoman government, he resigned in April 1873.
As the head of the Armenian delegation to the Berlin Congress (1878), Khrimyan visited the European powers (Germany, England, France, and Italy) and attempted to gain their support to resolve the Armenian Question. However, disappointed with the results of the Berlin Congress, he changed his position and urged the people to struggle for national liberation.
In 1879, Khrimyan Hayrik was elected the spiritual leader of Vaspurakan. After a demonstration in Gum Gapu on July 15, 1890, the Turkish government expelled him to Jerusalem.
On May 5, 1892, at the sacred council of Echmiadzin, Mkrtich I Khrimyan was elected head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, becoming the Catholicos of All Armenians while still in Jerusalem.
On June 8, 1893, the election of Mkrtich I Khrimyan was approved by the Russian Emperor Alexander III. The Ottoman sultan Abdul-Hamid II was forced to recognize the election of Mkrtich I, but with the condition that the Catholicos would not travel to Etchmiadzin through the Ottoman Empire.
Mkrtich Khrimyan found a brilliant way out of this situation. In June-August 1893, he through Egypt (at that time part of the Ottoman Empire only nominally), Trieste, and Vienna traveled to Etchmiadzin, Eastern Armenia. Here, on September 26, 1893, Mkrtich I Khrimyan ascended the throne as the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
In 1895, Khrimyan arrived in St. Petersburg and appeared before Tsar Nicholas II with a request to carry out the promised reforms in Western Armenia. And during the massacres of Armenians of Western Armenia in 1894-96, Khrimyan did his best to support the refugees and allow them to return to their homeland.
Mkrtich Khrimyan was also an opponent of the Russian Empire’s decree on the confiscation of Armenian church property adopted on June 12, 1903. More precisely, he ordered the diocesan leaders not to obey this decree.
During Khrimyan’s years as a Catholicos, a new hotel, a new Synodal building, a museum, and a new Matenadaran were built in the monastery of St. Etchmiadzin. Apart from that, Mkrtich Khrimyan has written many spiritual, religious, journalistic, and ethnographic works. For his patriotic activities, people have named him Hayrik (Father).
Mkrtich Khrimyan passed away on October 29, 1907. He was buried in the courtyard of the temple of Etchmiadzin next to another honored Catholicos, Nerses V Ashtaraketsi.