Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria died on Saturday, aged 89, after a long struggle with disease, church sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced a state of mourning, adding that it will start the burial sermons after the arrival of all the bishops of the Coptic Church from all over Egypt and abroad.
Last week, conflicting reports surfaced regarding the health of the Pope Shenouda III. Church officials denied that the health of the Church’s leader was deteriorating.
According to the Coptic Church’s regulations on choosing a new pope, nearly two thousands Coptic clergymen and public figures will convene within a week to start the elections process.
Last January, Shenouda underwent his last medical treatment in kidney disease and diabetes in the United States.
This year, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination as pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
His death marked the end of an era in which he played a pivotal role in the unprecedented expansion of the Coptic Church abroad.
He also oversaw a transformation of the church from a strictly religious institution to a social and political umbrella that endeavored to represent the Copts.
Shenouda’s death comes at a time when Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt`s population of 85 million, feel targeted by instances of sectarian violence. Several attacks against churches in the past year following the ousting of the former president Hosni Mubarak have raised fears, in addition to the killing of 27 protesters and one soldier on 9 October 2011 during bloody clashes between armed forces and protesters following a mostly Coptic march outside of the Maspero state television building in Cairo.
[This article was originally published in Egypt Independent.]