Stampede at Egyptian Coptic Pope viewing kills 3

Mideast Egypt Coptic Pope

A woman reacts during the funeral of Pope Shenouda III at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 18, 2012. Pope Shenouda III, the

Mideast Egypt Coptic Pope

Coptic Christians wait in line to pay respects to the body of Pope Shenouda III at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mideast Egypt Coptic Pope

Egyptian Coptic mourners kiss a picture of the late Pope Shenouda III while gathering outside the Coptic Orthodox Church for the viewing of the body

Mideast Egypt Coptic Pope

Egyptian Coptic mourners gather outside the Coptic Orthodox Church for the viewing of the body of Pope Shenouda III in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, March 18

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt Coptic Pope

Egyptian Coptic mourners kiss a picture of the late Pope Shenouda III while gathering outside the Coptic Orthodox Church for the viewing of Shenouda

Tens of thousands of Coptic Christians gathered outside a cathedral in Cairo on Sunday to pay their final respects to Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middel East.

Shenouda, who led the church for 40 years, died Saturday at 88. His body was on display in an elaborate golden crown and red and golden robes.

The mass of people prompted a stampede, the CNN reported, citing the Deputy Health Minister Hisham Sheeha, who said three were killed and 52 injured, most suffering from lack of oxygen and low blood pressure.

Shenouda was in poor health off and on for many years. He traveled to the United States to undergo medical tests last year.

He died of renal failure “due to the diabetes he endured for years,” said Sheif Doss, head of the Egyptian General Coptic Association. The pope had lung cancer, which spread to the rest of his body, Doss said.

Egypt’s Supreme Council announced Sunday three days of mourning for the Coptic Christian community.

Shenouda’s funeral will be held Tuesday and is expected to draw more Christians at a time when tensions with the Muslim majority are high.

Soldiers backed by armored personnel carriers deployed outside the cathedral, possibly as a deterrent to possible attacks by Muslims or angry over the traffic disruptions they caused.

The pope had on occasion protested what he perceived to be discrimination against his Christians. Christians, for example, rarely assume leadership jobs on the police force.

More recently, Christians’ worries have deepened with the rise of Islamic movements to political power in parliamentary elections and a string of deadly attacks on their community.