Egypt's Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III died on Saturday at the age of 88 due to cancer-related ailments and old age, it has been reported.

Pope Shenouda III died from complications in health and from old age, Reuters quoted his political adviser Hany Aziz as saying. He was reportedly suffering from cancer that had spread to several organs.

Shenouda became the 117th pope of Alexandria in November 1971 and was popular among Egypt's estimated 12 million Christians and was seen as a symbol of religious harmony in Muslim majority Egypt.

Pope Shenouda III had taken several critical stances on the position of Christians in Egypt during his four decades in power as the head of Coptic Christians.

In the 1970's Shenouda criticised then president Anwar Sadat for poor handling of the attacks against Christians during the Islamic insurgency in the country.

He also rejected Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel which resulted in his losing his temporal powers and Sadat sending him into exile within the country to the Wadi el Natrun monastery, North West of Cairo.

Shenouda came back to Cairo at the time of president Hosni Mubarak.

Pope Shenouda's death has been mourned by religious leaders and politicians in the country.

"Egypt has lost one of its rare men at a sensitive moment when it most needs the wisest of its wise - their expertise and their purity of minds," the state Middle East News Agency quoted Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayib, grand imam of Egypt's highest Islamic authority, al-Azhar, as saying.

"He held the question of Jerusalem and the Palestinian problem in his conscious," he added.