Three people were killed and at least 50 injured at St Mark's Cathedral in Cairo as thousands of grief-stricken Coptic Christians turned out to mourn the loss of Pope Shenouda III.

The three were crushed to death as mourners rushed into the cathedral.

Mourners had gathered to pay their last respects to Pope Shenouda, who died at the age of 88 on Saturday. His body was dressed in elaborate religious robes and seated on a ceremonial throne in the cathedral for the ceremony.

Pope Shenouda has been the head of Egypt's Christian community for 40 years. His loss has raised fears of increased persecution of Coptic Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt's Muslim-dominated population.

Authorities have expressed their support for the community and announced a period of public mourning, according to the LA Times.