Thousands of Christians have gathered at Cairo’s main cathedral to pay their final respects to Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Church. The 88-year-old, who had had battled liver and lung problems for several years, died on Saturday.
Shenouda’s body was seated on a ceremonial throne in the cathedral, wearing gold and red embroidered robes and golden headwear. Many people were visibly overcome with grief at seeing him for the final time.
One mourner Awatif Shafik Hamdy said: “I am very sad for the loss of Pope Shenouda but at the same time I am very happy because I know that he is now with Jesus”.
“It was Pope Shenouda who protected and supported us from the moment we were born. He was everything to us,” said Antonios Latif, another mourner.
Christians make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 80 million population. Although many credit Shenouda for soothing flare-ups with majority Muslims during his four decades as Pope, some think he could have done more to reduce discrimination against Christians.
Pope Shenouda will be buried on Tuesday.