Hundreds of thousands of mourners are expected to gather on Tuesday in front of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbasiya, Cairo for the funeral of the Coptic Orthodox Church’s leader, Pope Shenouda III who died Saturday at the age of 88.
The service, which is due to start at 11am, will be prayers rather than a full mass, led by Bishop Bakhomious of Beheira. Bishop Bakhomious is currently heading the church for an interim period of two months, until the General Congregation Council of the Coptic Church nominates a successor.
Bishop Paul of Tanta closed the doors of the St Mark's Cathedral in Abbasiya Monday to allow the military police to prepare for the funeral ceremony of the church’s 117th Pope.
The bishop also announced that only invitation holders would be allowed to enter the cathedral for the ceremony. Invitations have been issued from headquarters and distributed through the churches. Expected invitees include Coptic bishops worldwide, key members of the other Christian denominations in Egypt, Egyptian presidential candidate hopefuls and governmental and parliamentary officials.
The decision to hold a closed ceremony follows a stampede Sunday caused by the huge crowds attempting to enter the cathedral, which resulted in three deaths and 137 injuries.
Egypt’s ruling council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), announced on its Facebook page that Tuesday is a day of national mourning. The SCAF will also provide a military plane to transfer the body of the late Pope to the burial site at St Bishoy Monastery in Wadi Al-Natroun, Beheira governorate. On Saturday night, the ruling military council passed an executive order granting Christian state-employees of all denominations a three-day holiday for mourning.
Many key presidential hopefuls have come forward to praise and remember the Coptic religious leader for his stance on Israel. The Coptic Pope criticised the late president Anwar El-Sadat’s decision to normalise relations with the self-proclaimed Jewish state, as well as forbidding other bishops from visiting the Holy Land.
The Pope also clashed with Sadat over rights of Christians in Egypt and was, as a result, prevented by the late president from performing his duties as a pope and exiled to the desert-based St Bishoy Monastery in 1981.
He was restored to his position in 1985 following an amnesty by deposed president Hosni Mubarak.
The Pope will be buried at the very monastery where he spent his years in internal exile.
Ahram Online will carry live updates of the Pope's funeral on Tuesday.
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