Egypt’s Coptic Spiritual Leader Dies

Posted March 17th, 2012 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian community, has died. He was 88.

Shenouda died on Saturday in Egypt after suffering from health complications. Egypt's official MENA news agency says he had battled liver and lung ailments.

Shenouda was consecrated as pope of Alexandria in 1971. He led Egypt's Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population of 80 million.

In 1981, then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat exiled Shenouda to a desert monastery after he accused the government of failing to take action against Muslim extremists. Former President Hosni Mubarak ended his exile in 1985.

Later, Shenouda led Copts through another period of heightened tensions in Egypt. Islamic hardliners carried out a string of attacks against Christian churches, including the January 2011 bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria that killed 23 people.