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Christians gather to bid farewell to Egypt's Pope Shenouda III

An Egyptian Christian Copt mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, in Saint Mark Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012, a day after he died at the age of 88 years following a long illness. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian Christian Copt mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, in Saint Mark Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012, a day after he died at the age of 88 years following a long illness. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)KHALED DESOUKI / AFP - Getty Images
A Coptic Christian mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, the spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, after paying his respects to Pope Shenuda who is sitting dressed in formal robes at the Saint Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012. Pope Shenuda died at the age of 88, after a long battle with illness and based on his wishes he will be buried on March 20, at St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi Natrun in the Nile Delta where he spent his time in exile after a dispute with late president Anwar Sadat. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A Coptic Christian mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, the spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, after paying his respects to Pope Shenuda who is sitting dressed in formal robes at the Saint Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012. Pope Shenuda died at the age of 88, after a long battle with illness and based on his wishes he will be buried on March 20, at St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi Natrun in the Nile Delta where he spent his time in exile after a dispute with late president Anwar Sadat. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)KHALED DESOUKI / AFP - Getty Images

An Egyptian Christian Copt mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, in Saint Mark Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012, a day after he died at the age of 88 years following a long illness. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian Christian Copt mourns the death of Pope Shenuda III, spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, in Saint Mark Cathedral in Cairo's al-Abbassiya district on March 18, 2012, a day after he died at the age of 88 years following a long illness. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)KHALED DESOUKI / AFP - Getty Images

Christians gathered on Sunday to pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, who sought to soothe sectarian tension in his four decades atop Egypt's Orthodox Church but saw increasing flare-ups in the majority Muslim nation in the last months of his life.

Friction has worsened since President Hosni Mubarak, who suppressed Islamists, was ousted last year. Since then Shenouda, who died on Saturday aged 88, often called for harmony and regularly met Muslim and other leaders.

Christians, who comprise about a tenth of Egypt's 80 million people, have long complained of discrimination and in the past year stepped up protests, which included calls for new rules that would make it as easy to build a church as a mosque.

Shenouda had served as the 117th Pope of Alexandria since November 1971, leading the Orthodox community who make up most of Egypt's Christians. His funeral will be held on Tuesday, Egyptian state media reported. 

-- Reuters contributed to this blog post

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REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO IN CATHEDRAL Egyptian Christians gather to mourn the death of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, outside the Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo March 18, 2012. Christians gathered on Sunday to pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, who sought to soothe sectarian tension in his four decades atop Egypt's Orthodox Church but saw increasing flareups in the majority Muslim nation in the last months of his life. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (EGYPT - Tags: RELIGION OBITUARY)
REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO IN CATHEDRAL Egyptian Christians gather to mourn the death of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, outside the Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo March 18, 2012. Christians gathered on Sunday to pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, who sought to soothe sectarian tension in his four decades atop Egypt's Orthodox Church but saw increasing flareups in the majority Muslim nation in the last months of his life. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (EGYPT - Tags: RELIGION OBITUARY)ESAM OMRAN AL-FETORI / Reuters

A Coptic Christian priest holds candles next to a picture of Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City March 18, 2012. Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians, died on Saturday from old age, his political adviser told Reuters. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION OBITUARY)
A Coptic Christian priest holds candles next to a picture of Egyptian Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City March 18, 2012. Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of most of Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians, died on Saturday from old age, his political adviser told Reuters. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (JERUSALEM - Tags: RELIGION OBITUARY)AMMAR AWAD / Reuters