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Leader of Iraq's Chaldean Catholics dies

Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, spiritual leader of Iraq's Chaldean Catholics, has died after a long illness at the age of 81.

Vatican missionary news service Fides said he died on Monday in Beirut, where he had been hospitalised for several months.

Bidawid was an outspoken opponent of the economic embargo on Iraq, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Some accused him of being an apologist for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but he responded that he was only defending his country.

During a 1991 visit to the Vatican he accused the Gulf War allies of genocide against the Iraqi people.

"These nations should feel pretty guilty. It was a vendetta, a shame for humanity," he said.

Pope John Paul II sent a condolence message yesterday, citing Bidawid's long service for the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Chaldean Catholics are the largest Christian community in Iraq, but the numbers have been steadily shrinking, mainly because of economic hardships.

Bidawid was born in Mosul, Iraq, and entered a seminary there at the age of 11. Three years later he was sent to Rome to study theology and philosophy.


Chaldean Catholic Patriarch dies (Catholic World News)
Archbishop Thomas M. Bidawid (
Interview with Patriarch Bidawid of Iraq - International community guilty of genocide (Zenit/

9 Jul 2003