CAIRO — Egypt’s highest court Wednesday upheld a death sentence for a former monk convicted of killing an abbot in a desert monastery north of Cairo in 2018.

The Court of Cassation also reduced a death sentence against another former monk to life in prison.

The two were convicted of killing Bishop Anba Epiphanius, an abbot at St. Macarius Monastery, during the night of July 29, 2018. Both monks were defrocked by the Coptic Orthodox pope, Tawadros II, after the killing.

The two were close friends who led a rogue faction within the monastery that undermined the abbot’s authority, authorities said.

The Damanhur Criminal Court, north of Cairo, sentenced the two to death last year. The defendants appealed the ruling.

Wednesday’s ruling by the Court of Cassation is final.

The abbot’s shocking death shook Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest in the world and the one that gave monasticism to the faith.

The Coptic church recruits its patriarch and bishops from the monasteries, and some monks are sent to serve in churches elsewhere in Egypt and abroad.

Following Epiphanius’ death, the church took measures aimed at instilling discipline into monastic life. Among them was a halt in admitting novices to monasteries nationwide for a year.

Orthodox monasteries can be found across Egypt, but those located in remote desert areas, like St. Macarius, have traditionally enjoyed an elevated status because they revived the ascetic traditions of early monasticism.