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Pope Benedict XVI offers prayers for Coptic Pope Shenouda III

Vatican's Pope Benedict XVI expresses solidarity with Egypt's Coptic Orthodox community, following Coptic patriarch's death on Saturday

AFP , Sunday 18 Mar 2012
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Pope John Paul II sits with Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III, during a meeting at Shenouda's residence in Cairo, Egypt, February 2000 (Photo: AP)
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Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers Saturday for Egypt's Coptic Pope Shenouda III who died on Saturday at the age of 88, a Vatican spokesman said.

The Catholic pope expressed the desire that "the Lord welcomes this great pastor," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

"We will never forget the meeting between Pope Shenouda III and Pope John Paul II in Cairo on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Mount Sinai...," in 2000 he added.

While Benedict never met Shenouda, the spiritual leader of the Middle East's largest Christian minority, he often spoke of the closeness he felt with the Coptic Church.

Benedict's expressions of solidarity with the Coptic community after a 2011 New Year's Day church bombing that killed 21 people as worshippers emerged from midnight mass strained relations with the Egyptian government.

Shenouda did however meet Benedict's predecessor, the charismatic John Paul II and maintained strong links with the Catholic Church.

Shenouda had suffered health problems for years and recently stopped receiving treatment for liver failure and tumors or swelling in his lungs because he was too feeble, the Coptic Church said.

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