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