CAIRO - Egypt’s Coptic Christians voted on Monday for a new leader to succeed Pope Shenuda III, who died in March leaving behind a community anxious about its status under an Islamist-led government. Nearly 2,500 eligible voters made up of Coptic public officials, MPs, journalists, local councillors were casting their ballots in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the Coptic papacy, to choose from among the five candidates. Shenuda III, a careful, pragmatic leader, died at a critical time for the increasingly beleaguered minority which faced a surge in sectarian attacks after an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. The next patriarch will be the main contact of the community with Egypt’s new Islamist president. The Coptic pope serves as the spiritual leader of the country’s Christians, who make up between six and 10 percent of Egypt’s 83-million population. “We always elect our pope in a critical time in the country’s history. The last two popes were elected at the start of two Egyptian presidents’ rule,” said Shaker Talaat, a volunteer helping organise the vote. Five candidates - two bishops and three monks - are vying to become the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa in the Holy See of St Mark the Apostle.