||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (January 2012)|
Raphael Popov was a Bulgarian priest and a participant in the struggle for an independent national church. In 1860 as a bishop of the Orthodox Church, he became Uniate, and later (1864) and Apostolic Administrator of the Bulgarians Uniates in the Ottoman Empire.
He was born in 1830 in Strelcha. In the period 1849 - 1851 he was a teacher in the village of Popintsi and from 1851 taught in Plovdiv, but in next year - in the village of Poibrene. On August 24, 1854 he took order to Karlukovo monastery near Pleven and professed a monk. Afterwards Popov taught three years in Berkovitsa. In early January 1859 he went to the Rila Monastery and accepted the offer of Avksentii Veleshki to be ordained a deacon. In December the same year both arrived in Constantinople. On April 3, 1860 he served with Ilarion during the Easter action, when Bulgarians rejected the name of the Greek patriarch. On December 18, 1860 Popov joined the Uniatism. He participated to the Bulgarian Uniates delegation to the Pope Pius IX in the spring of 1861. In 1862 Raphael became Archimandrite. On February 10, 1864 Rafael Popov was appointed "Patriarchal Vicar and popular leader of the Bulgarians united with the Roman Catholic Church." On March 14, 1864 Rafael Popov was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the United Bulgarians. On November 19, 1865 was ordained a bishop in the cathedral church "St. John Chrysostom" in Constantinople.
At the beginning of next year his episcopal office is finally settled in Edirne. The new bishop developed vigorous activity. Two years later, due to the great need of priests ordained Rafail Popov brother a priest and sent him to take care of the parish in Pokrovan. In April 1866 Rafail Popov undertook an extensive tour in Macedonia and Thrace. In 1869 - 1870 he undertook a journey to Rome to take part in meetings of the First Vatican Council, which proclaimed papal infallibility in matters of faith. Fifteen years Popov served selflessly and devotedly to the Catholic Church. These successes, especially the prospects for further expansion of the Uniate movement worried enemies of the Bulgarian national cause. Bishop Rafail Popov ruled as Bulgarian Eastern Catholic vicar for 11 years. He died on February 23, 1876 and was buried in the side altar of Edirne Eastern Catholic Episcopal cathedral "St. Elias", where he served during his lifetime.