March 20 - Thousands of mourners gather in Cairo to bid farewell to Egypt’s Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda, who died on Saturday aged 88. Nick Rowlands reports.
Thousands of mourners attend the funeral in Cairo of Egypt's Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda. Egypt's pope, who promoted religious harmony and won respect amongst the country's Muslim majority, died on Saturday, aged 88. Religious figures from several countries - including a Catholic delegation from the Vatican - attended the service. Representatives from Egypt's ruling military council and some presidential election candidates were present. The prayers were led by Bishop Bakhomious, who will temporarily hold the post of pope for two months until a new leader can be elected. Crowds of people jostled each other whilst trying to touch Shenouda's coffin. While mourners paid their respects on Sunday two people died in the crush. Coptic Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people, and have long complained of discrimination. Pope Shenouda strove to quell growing anger amongst Copts at Islamic extremism and sectarian clashes that worsened with fall of President Hosni Mubarak last year. Mourners said they hope the new pope will follow the same policy of promoting peace between Christians and Muslims. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) EGYPTIAN CHRISTIAN MAN, MOHSEN NA'EEM, SAYING: "We are being tested, the pope has passed away but he will remain in our hearts. We lost his body, but he stays alive in our hearts. Not only Christians but also many Muslims are sad about the death of the pope. We are being tested." Shenouda is expected to be buried, at his request, in a monastery in the desert northwest of Cairo. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.