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Christians fearful of political ascent of Islamists following pope’s death.

By Hamza Hendawi

3/20/2012 Egypt (AP) – Pope Shenouda III, a giant figure for 40 years at the helm of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, was laid to rest on Tuesday in a desert monastery after a moving funeral Mass at a Cairo cathedral attended by tens of thousands.

Shenouda’s death brought an outpouring of expressions of Muslim-Christian unity in this mainly Muslim and conservative Arab nation, but it may have done little to hide the alarm of Egypt’s Christians over the political ascent of Islamists.

Away from the volatile sectarian politics of Egypt, the death of Shenouda united the nation’s 10 million Christians in grief, alongside anxiety over the future.

“He was our safety valve,” said a woman in her 40s who refused to give her name. “We went to sleep every night knowing that he has our back. Now, I don’t know who can give us this again.”

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