Farewell bid to Egypt`s Coptic Pope Shenouda
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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 23:17
Cairo: Thousands of mourners flooded into the iconic St Mark's Cathedral here on Tuesday to bid farewell Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III, who was laid to rest at St Bishoy monastery in the Nile Delta.

The spiritual leader, who died at the age of 88 on Saturday after 40 years at the helm of Coptic Orthodox Church, was able to steer the Coptic Christians through difficult times when sectarian tensions in this Muslim majority country are on the rise.

When the casket carrying the body of the late Pope was carried out of the Cathedral, tens of thousands of mourners were shouting "We love you, Father" and stretching their hands to reach it.

The funeral prayers were led by the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Paulos, who flew in from Addis Ababa for the service. "Because he is resting, does not mean we have lost him," Paulos said.

Among others attending the funeral mass were Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, his predecessor Essam Sharaf, Islamic preacher Amr Khlaed, head of the Coptic Church in Germany Bishop Damian, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson and the Holy See's Ambassador in Cairo Michael Fitzgerald.

Crowds waited outside, some all night, for a chance to attend the service, which officials had said would be by invitation only. At one point, the gate to the cathedral compound was opened, causing a stampede into the courtyard, as church officials scrambled to closed the doors again.

A day of national mourning was declared today to mourn the death of the leader of the Middle East's largest Christian community. Flags were flown at half mast around the country, and an unprecedented security plan has been put in place in the capital and in the Nile Delta province of Beheira.

Most of Egypt's estimated 10 million Christians are Orthodox Copts.


First Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 23:17

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