(Egyptian Christians mourn the death of Pope Shenouda III, the head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, inside the Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo March 18, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Christians gathered on Sunday to pay final respects to Pope Shenouda III, who sought to soothe sectarian tension in his four decades atop Egypt’s Orthodox Church but saw increasing flare-ups in the majority Muslim nation in the last months of his life.

Friction has worsened since President Hosni Mubarak, who suppressed Islamists, was ousted last year. Since then Shenouda, who died on Saturday aged 88, often called for harmony and regularly met Muslim and other leaders.

Christians, who comprise about a tenth of Egypt’s 80 million people, have long complained of discrimination and in the past year stepped up protests, which included calls for new rules that would make it as easy to build a church as a mosque.

Shenouda had served as the 117th Pope of Alexandria since November 1971, leading the Orthodox community who make up most of Egypt’s Christians. His funeral will be held on Tuesday, Egyptian state media reported.