CAIRO, Egypt – Pope Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church who led Egypt’s Christian minority for 40 years during a time of increasing tensions with Muslims, died Saturday.

He was 88 years old.

The state news agency MENA said Shenouda died Saturday after battling liver and lung problems for several years, and a doctor who treated him several years ago said he suffered from prostate cancer that had spread to his lungs.

“Baba Shenouda,” as he was known to his followers, headed one of the most ancient churches in the world, tracing its founding to St. Mark, who is said to have brought Christianity to Egypt in the 1st century.