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Coptic Christians mourn death of Pope Shenouda III

Egyptian Christians mourned the death of Pope Shenouda III, the longtime leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, who died March 17 at the age of 88.

Tributes came in from around the world, with Pope Benedict XVI offering prayers and President Barack Obama praising Shenouda as an "advocate for tolerance and religious dialogue."

Shenouda, the 117th Patriarch of Alexandria, ruled for 41 years amid great political turmoil. A supporter of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he was an outspoken advocate for Christians in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches and a Lutheran pastor, said Shenouda "taught us that modesty is the best way to serve Christ." He hailed the patriarch as a "strong believer" in Christian-Muslim coexistence.

Shenouda spent more than three years in exile in the desert monastery of St. Bishoy after Anwar Sadat, then president of Egypt, stripped him of his powers for criticizing violence against Copts by Islamic extremists. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population. Mubarak freed Shenouda in 1985.

Shenouda was buried at St. Bishoy.

Coptic leaders say there is no timetable to pick Shenouda's successor.


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