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Raphael I Bidawid

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Raphael I Bidawid
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans
Church Chaldean Catholic Church
See Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Babylon
Enthroned May 21, 1989
Reign ended July 7, 2003
Predecessor Paul II Cheikho
Successor Emmanuel III Delly
Ordination October 22, 1944
Consecration October 6, 1957
Personal details
Birth name Raphael J. Bidawid
Born April 17, 1922
Mosul, Iraq
Died July 7, 2003
Beirut, Lebanon
Residence Iraq

Mar Raphael I Bidawid † (in Arabic مار روفائيل الاول بيداويد ) was the patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church from 1989-2003. He was also a Syriac scholar.


He was born on April 17, 1922 to parents of the Syriac/Assyrian/Chaldean ethnic group in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and he took his school and seminar training in Mosul. He was ordained a priest on October 22, 1944 in Rome and in 1946 he obtained the academic degrees of doctor of philosophy and theology. Between 1948 and 1956 he worked as a professor of philosophy and theology in Mosul. On October 6, 1957, at the age of 35, he was ordained Bishop of Amadiyah, by Patriarch Yousef VII Ghanima[1]. As bishop of Amadiyah he experienced the mass exodus of Christians from Northern Iraq. Mar Raphael Bidawid was then appointed bishop of Beirut in 1966.

On March 21, 1989 Raphael I Bidawid was elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldean Catholic Church. His election was confirmed by Pope John Paul II in June 1989. During his Patriarchate, he established Babylon College which became an instrumental educational institution for the Chaldean Church[2]. He could speak 13 languages. He died in Beirut on July 7, 2003.

Political views

As head of a 600,000 strong minority, he was obliged to be cautious. He once described Saddam Hussein as "a real gentleman". Saddam's foreign minister Tariq Aziz was a Chaldean, and the church enjoyed some protection during his rule.[3]

In an interview with Bidawid, published in 2003, he commented on the Assyrian name dispute and declared his ethnic point of view:

I personally think that these different names serve to add confusion. The original name of our Church was the ‘Church of the East’ ... When a portion of the Church of the East became Catholic, the name given was ‘Chaldean’ based on the Magi kings who came from the land of the Chaldean, to Bethlehem. The name ‘Chaldean’ does not represent an ethnicity... We have to separate what is ethnicity and what is religion... I myself, my sect is Chaldean, but ethnically, I am Assyrian.[4]

In an interview with the Assyrian Star in the September-October 1974 issue, he was quoted as saying:

Before I became a priest I was an Assyrian, before I became a bishop I was an Assyrian, I am an Assyrian today, tomorrow, forever, and I am proud of it.[5]
Preceded by
Paul II Cheikho
Patriarch of Babylon
Succeeded by
Emmanuel III Delly


  • Raphael J. Bidawid, Les lettres du patriarche nestorien Timothee I, Studi e Testi 187, Vatican City (1956)

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