Egypt Holds Funeral for Coptic Pope

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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The funeral for Egypt's Coptic Pope, Shenouda the Third, the spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian community, is under way in Cairo.

Shenouda died on Saturday in Cairo at age 88 from liver and lung disease.

Historians say the Coptic church is one of the oldest in the world. It traces its founding to Apostle Mark, who is said to have introduced Christianity to Egypt in the First century. Egypt's Copts make up about 10 percent of the country's population of 80 million

Shenouda was born Nazeer Gayed, entering the priesthood and later a monastery as a young man. He was elected Coptic pope in 1971.

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

Shenouda led Copts through periods of tension with Egypt's Muslim majority. Islamic hardliners have carried out attacks against Christian churches, including bombing a Coptic church in Alexandria in 2011, killing 23 people.