Coptic Pope laid to rest in desert monastery

The body of Pope Shenouda III has been buried at a desert monastery following a day of funeral ceremonies for the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church, who died on Saturday at the age of 88.

Thousands of Coptic Christians earlier on Tuesday paid their final respects to the pope at a funeral service at St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.

Shenouda was then flown by military plane for interment  at Wadi al-Natroun, a fourth-century monastery located in Beheira province in the northwest Nile Delta.

Chaotic scenes preceded the burial as thousands of people swarmed around the convoy carrying Shenouda’s body, forcing the vehicle to a halt and overwhelming lines of police who tried in vain to push the crowds back.  

In Cairo, clerics, dignitaries and religious leaders looked on as black-clad priests and monks recited prayers and dispensed incense smoke. Shenouda’s body lay in a white casket in the elaborate regalia he traditionally wore to oversee services, complete with an ornate golden crown.

Tens of thousands more who could not get in followed the mass outside the cathedral, carrying portraits of Shenouda and crosses. Many wept, wiping tears off their faces as the melancholic tunes of the hymns reached them through loudspeakers.

Flags were flown at half mast and an “unprecedented” security plan was put in place as crowds mourned the man who had led the Coptic church for four decades.

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