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Thousands mourn Egypt’s Coptic Pope Shenouda III comment (0)

April 19, 2012

CAIRO, Egypt — Egyptian Christians are mourning the death of Pope Shenouda III, the longtime leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who died March 17 at the age of 88.

His funeral was held March 20 at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, where his body had been sitting in state on a large wooden throne.

Tributes have come in from around the world, with Pope Benedict XVI offering prayers and President Obama praising Shenouda as an “advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue.”

Shenouda, the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria, ruled for 41 years amid great political turmoil. A supporter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, he was an outspoken advocate for Christians in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Shenouda spent more than three years in exile in the desert monastery of St. Bishoy, after then-President Anwar Sadat stripped him of his powers for criticizing violence against Copts by Islamic extremists.

Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

Mubarak freed Shenouda in 1985. More recently, Shenouda presided over a period of danger for his flock as Copts were targeted by militant Islamic groups following Mubarak’s downfall a year ago.

Shenouda was buried at St. Bishoy. Egypt’s ruling military council said a military transport plane took Shenouda’s body from Cairo to St. Bishoy after the funeral.

Coptic leaders say there is no timetable to pick Shenouda’s successor.

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