Middle East News
OBITUARY: Egypt's Pope Shenouda: spiritual and political leader
Mar 17, 2012, 19:17 GMT
Cairo - Seen by many as a distinguished religious leader, a profound theologian and a spiritual father, Pope Shenouda III led Egypt's Coptic Egyptian church for more than 40 years.
Shenouda, who health had deteriorated in recent weeks, died on Saturday at the age of 88.
For years, he advocated Christian unity and dialogue and devoted his writings and teachings to spread a message of peace, dialogue and forgiveness.
Thousands of Egyptian Christians gathered at the main Cathedral in Cairo to pay their final respects to Shenouda, whose burial ceremony will be held on Tuesday.
He was enthroned as the 117th Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church in November 1971, leading most of Egypt's Christians, who make up some 10 per cent of the 80-million population.
Born in southern Egypt to a religious family, Shenouda wrote almost 100 books on a variety of subjects. He gave a weekly sermon, which he only cancelled when he was critically ill.
The 40th anniversary of his enthronement in November was overshadowed by fears among Egypt's Christians that the rise of Islamists following the revolution that ousted Hosny Mubarak last year would further sideline the Copts.
Religious tensions rose after 27 people were killed in Cairo in October when government troops tried to disperse a demonstration to protest an attack on a Church, which Copts had blamed on Muslim radicals.
'Their blood does not come cheap,' Shenouda said in a sermon, that was interrupted with chants against Egypt's ruling military council.
Shenouda backed Mubarak despite calls by Christians on him to address their concerns of government discrimination against them.
He was criticized in the early days of the popular uprising that forced Mubarak to resign last year for calling on protesters to end their rallies.
He later praised the youth of the revolution and the military after Mubarak stepped down.
On 3 September 1981, then-president Anwar Sadat signed a decree deposing Pope Shenouda and forcing him to stay at the Monastery of Saint Pishoy in northern Egypt. He remained there for over three years, until Egypt's High Court issued a ruling in his favour and Mubarak released him in 1985.
Leading political groups have mourned Shenouda as a 'wise' and 'nationalistic leader' who spared Egypt 'sectarian strife.'
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