Egypt Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda dies: adviser
By Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians, died on Saturday from old age, his political adviser told Reuters.
Bells tolled in Cairo's Abbasiya district, site of Egypt's main Coptic cathedral, as the news spread.
Shenouda, 88, became the 117th Pope of Alexandria in November 1971, and was popular among Egypt's Christians and Muslims alike during his four decades in power.
His successor will play a central role in forging the church's position in the country after the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak last year. Islamist parties have since swept parliamentary elections and will dominate the debate over drawing up the country's new constitution.
"He died from complications in health and from old age," adviser Hany Aziz said. Shenouda had recently returned from abroad where he had been seeking medical treatment.
Shenouda's criticism of the government's handling of an Islamic insurgency in the 1970s, in which Christians were targets, and his rejection of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel landed him in trouble with then-president Anwar Sadat.
Sadat banished him to the Wadi el Natrun monastery north west of Cairo and stripped him of his temporal powers.
Under more than a quarter century of President Mubarak's rule, relations between the government and the Coptic church were generally smooth, with the Pope portrayed in state media as a symbol of religious harmony, despite occasional outbreaks of sectarian violence. Continued...