Pope Shenouda III, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, the single largest church in the Middle East, died on Saturday 17 March 2012, aged 89 years.
He had suffered from various health problems in recent years, though he had continued working and was in good spirits even just a short while ago, Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported.
He became Pope in 1971, and will be remembered as a tremendously influential figure who sought to develop a revival of the church.
He was also a leading figure for supporters of African initiated (as distinct from missionary) churches right across the region, and a strong advocate of ecumenism (inter-Christian cooperation, action and discussion in service to the world).
Pope Shenouda's funeral is likely to take place in the next few days, and is expected to draw huge numbers.
It seems probable that Bishop Pachomious of Beheira will take on the role of Pope for an interim period of two months, by which time it is expected a successor will have been appointed.
* See the author's obituary and appraisal of Pope Shenouda III's life and significance here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16406