19 Mar 2012

Thousands mourn Egypt's Coptic Pope

11:21 am on 19 March 2012

Tens of thousands of Coptic Christians in Egypt have paid their respects to Pope Shenouda III who died at the weekend.

There have been reports that at least three mourners have suffocated in the crush to see the spiritual leader's embalmed body on display at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo.

A vigil was followed by a Sunday morning Mass, with the dead pope's body sat in the papal chair dressed in ceremonial robes, the BBC reports.

Pope Shenouda died at the age of 88 on Saturday, after reportedly suffering from cancer.

He had served as the 117th Pope of Alexandria since 1971.

Coptic Christians make up 10% of Egypt's population of 80 million, making them the Middle East's largest Christian minority.

After attacks on Coptic Christians in recent years, Pope Shenouda had urged officials to do more to address the community's concerns.

The government has given Coptic Christians three days off work to prepare for his funeral.