Coptic pope ill

CAIRO - The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenuda III, is to remain in hospital, the church said yesterday, raising fears about the 84-year-old's worsening health.

CAIRO - The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenuda III, is to remain in hospital, the church said yesterday, raising fears about the 84-year-old's worsening health.

"The pope will remain in hospital to ensure maximum rest and follow up of his condition," Father Salib Matta Sawiris told the official Mena news agency.

"The pope's condition is stable and is gradually improving after overcoming pain and severe infection in the gall bladder," Sawiris said.

Shenuda recently returned from the US where he was undergoing medical treatment. He has made several health-related trips abroad this year fuelling speculation over his succession.

Shenuda is the 117th successor of Saint Mark, who according to tradition founded the Coptic Church in the first century AD. He has headed the church since 1971.

Copts form 6percent to 10percent of Egypt's 76million people and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. - Sapa-AFP

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