Source AP ©

Pope Shenouda III leaves hospital

Pope Shenouda III has left hospital after several days of intensive care that raised fears over his bad health.

The 84-year-old pope, who suffers from chronic cholecystitis, or stones in his gall bladder that cause a high fever and severe pain, left hospital on Sunday, said Bishop Youanas, one of the pope assistants.

Upon his arrival to his residence at Cairo's St. Mark's cathedral, Pope Shenouda thanked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, ministers, businessmen, and key Muslim and Christian figures for checking about his health when he was at the hospital, the church said.

The pope was rushed to the hospital last Wednesday after canceling his weekly lecture at St. Mark's cathedral.

Local papers were filled with the news that the pope had lost consciousness, perhaps even fallen into a coma, but both the church and a hospital doctor denied the reports.

The latest health scare came just a few days after the pope returned from the United States, where he received a check up on his kidneys. He is also known to have back problems and last year made several U.S. trips for back surgery.

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

An estimated 10 percent of Egypt's 76.5 million people are Copts, making it the largest Christian community in the Middle East. There are also major Coptic populations in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Egyptian Christians generally live in peace with the Muslim majority, but occasional sectarian clashes do occur. Christians complain that they suffer job discrimination, particularly in the high ranks of the civil and military service, where positions such as generals or governors are invariably filled by Muslims.

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