Overcrowding at Coptic pope’s viewing leads to 3 deaths, dozens of injuries

by
March 19, 2012

From Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN

Cairo (CNN) — Overcrowding inside a cathedral where Coptic Christians had gathered to pay last respects to their pope caused a stampede that left three people dead and more than 50 injured, a health official said.

Coptic Pope Shenouda III, who led the Coptic community for more than four decades, died Saturday. He was 88.

On Sunday, thousands of Christians paid their respects to him at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo where his body went on display in an elaborate golden crown and red and golden robes. The mass of people inside the cathedral prompted the stampede, according to Deputy Health Minister Hisham Sheeha, who said three were killed and 52 injured, most suffering from lack of oxygen and low blood pressure.

Shenouda’s funeral will be held early this week and is expected to bring millions of Christians onto the streets of Egypt at a time when tensions with the Muslim majority are high.

Egypt’s Christian minority has been the target of a number of high-profile attacks in the past several years.

The bombing of a major church in Alexandria in January 2011 left at least 21 people dead, and at least 25 Coptic Christians and their supporters were killed in clashes with the army in October. That incident was the bloodiest in Egypt since its revolution in February.

Christians are a very small minority in Egypt, although the Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in the Middle East, according the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage, England.

The U.S. State Department estimates that Egypt is roughly 9% Coptic Christian, but the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which released a report on the global Christian population last year, says it is probably closer to 5%.

Egypt did not release the number of Christians in its 2006 census, the think tank said.

To read more, visit: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/18/world/africa/egypt-coptic-pope/?hpt=hp_t1

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