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Egyptian Christians are mourning the passing of 88-year-old Coptic Orthodox Pope and Patriarch Shenouda III (August 3, 1923—March 17, 2012). He died in Cairo today after a lengthy illness. He had both back and kidney problems, according to local news reports.

Pope Shenouda was extremely popular among millions of everyday Christians. A charismatic reformer and an advocate of Christian rights and interests in a predominantly Muslim country, many considered him to be just like a father.

Egyptian Muslims liked him for his critical stance towards Israel, but both Christian and Muslim intellectuals were critical of his mixing politics with religion. No doubt he was the most influential Christian leader in twentieth-century Egypt. He was co-founder and editor-in-chief of Sunday School Magazine in 1947, was consecrated as monk in 1954, became Bishop of Education in 1962, and Pope in 1971.

"We lost today a great icon. His presence was crucial in repelling many threats against the country," Amin Eskandar, a member in the People's Assembly (parliament's lower house), told state television channel Nile News (as quoted by the Egyptian newspaper Ahram). "His patriotism and wise approaches to any issue were very helpful. May God compensate us for the loss of that great man."

In 2002, Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Bishoi, secretary of the Synod since 1985, described the dramatic changes during Pope Shenouda's reign. He said the number of monks, priests, bishops, church servants, and churches dramatically increased. Monasteries expanded as never before since the arrival of Islam in Egypt.

During Pope Shenouda's term, the migration of Copts increased tremendously as a consequence of better economic perspectives and a search for greater freedoms ...

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Egypt's Pope Shenouda III Dead at 88
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