Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tens of thousands of people are taking part in the funeral of Shenouda III, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church who died on Saturday at the age of 88. The service is underway in St Mark's Cathedral, in Cairo's Abbasseya neighbourhood. The authorities are showing great consideration for the head of the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
Across Egypt, it is a day of national mourning, with flags at half mask. The country's main leaders are paying their respect to the body, which will be flown to Wadr Naturn (Nile Delta) after the ceremony for burial in the cemetery of St Bushoy Monastery where the patriarch spent four years under house arrest (1981-1985) after he criticised the regime of the late President Anwar al-Sadat.
Coptic bishops from around the world are taking part in the service led by Abuna Paulos, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. "Because he is resting does not mean that we lost him," the latter said.
Following tradition, Shenouda's body was removed from the coffin and placed on the throne with his embroidered ceremonial red and gold vestments, a golden mitre on his head.
The authorities took huge security measures around the cathedral and the monastery where he will be buried. Many ambulances and medical staff are also present. Two days ago, crowds crushed to death three people, injuring an additional 137.
In honour of Shenouda's death, two families from a village in Minya province, Upper Egypt, ended a long-standing feud that caused 11 deaths.
Provincial governor General Serag Eddin al-Rouby said that the two families, one Muslim and one Christian, agreed to end the dispute when they heard about the patriarch's death.