CHURCH LEADERS have joined politicians, statesmen and
royalty from around the world to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, the
first post-apartheid President of South Africa, who died last
night, aged 95. He was surrounded by his family at his home in
Johannesburg when he died after a long illness.
"Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding
President of our democratic nation, has departed," the current
President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said in a televised
announcement last night. "He passed on peacefully in the company of
his family. . . He is now resting. He is now at peace.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people
have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come,
nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His
tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.
His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their
Mr Mandela was already serving a five-year prison
sentence for inciting workers strikes when, in June 1964, he was
convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. He became a
global symbol for campaigners on human rights, who demanded not
only an end to apartheid, but also his freedom. As violent
exchanges escalated out of control in 1989, the South African
President at that time, P. W. Botha, suffered a stroke, and was
succeeded by F. W. de Klerk. Within months, President de Klerk
released Nelson Mandela, and negotiations began to secure a
peaceful transition to majority rule.
Mr Mandela had always insisted that he did not want
to replace white-supremacy with black-supremacy. Just before he was
sentenced, he said: "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and
free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with
equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and
to see realised. But . . . if needs be, it is an ideal for which I
am prepared to die."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered prayers yesterday for
the Mandela family: "Although we collectively claim him as the
father of our nation, and the pain we feel is similar to that of
losing a close relative, he was your husband, your father and your
grandfather. . . We thank you for sharing Tata with us and we thank
God for him." He continued: "We are relieved that his suffering is
over, but our relief is drowned by our grief."
Writing in The Guardian today, Archbishop Tutu said that
the harsh prison regime turned Mr Mandela into a statesman. "When
he went to jail, he was angry. He was relatively young and had
experienced a miscarriage of justice; he wasn't a statesperson,
ready to be forgiving: he was commander-in-chief of the armed wing
of the party, which was quite prepared to use violence.
"The time in jail was quite crucial. Of course,
suffering embitters some people, but it ennobles others. Prison
became a crucible that burned away the dross. People could never
say to him: 'You talk glibly of forgiveness. You haven't suffered.
What do you know?' Twenty-seven years gave him the authority to
say, let us try to forgive."
The current Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd
Thabo Makgoba, has written a prayer: "Go forth, revolutionary and
loving soul, on your journey out of this world, in the name of God,
who created you, suffered with you and liberated you.
"Go home Madiba, you have selflessly done all that is
good, noble and honourable for God's people. We will continue where
you have left off, the Lord being our helper."
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: "South Africa has
lost its greatest citizen and its father.
"Nelson Mandela, fighting to the end, is freed to be
with his God in joy and reward for his great service and sacrifice.
We pray for his family, for his friends and for his country. We are
challenged to show the same degree of humanity, of courage and of
"Mandela was a symbol of hope, an icon for fairness,
and a beacon for reconciliation. His legacy will continue in our
global village long after his body has been laid to rest," the
Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said in a Pause for
Thought on BBC Radio 2 this morning. "We should all follow the
example that Nelson Mandela has left us. He was a true human being
who stood up for lasting justice whilst suffering great personal
injustice - defeating unfairness with hope."
In a telegram to President Zuma, Pope Francis sent
"prayerful condolences" to Mandela's family and paid tribute to the
"steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the
human dignity of all the nation's citizens and in forging a new
South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence,
reconciliation and truth.
"I pray that the late President's example will
inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common
good at the forefront of their political aspirations.
Mr Mandela was an honorary Fellow of Magdalene
College, Cambridge. The college's Master, the former Archbishop of
Canterbury Lord Williams, told the BBC Radio 4 Today
programme this morning that he had "huge gratitude for Mandela's
life and witness".
"What he did was almost to redefine what a politician
was capable of," he said. "Most politicians worldwide are people
who are there because they represent the interests of a certain
group of society. Nelson Mandela was there to represent a community
that didn't yet exist - a community that could come into being if
people were prepared to work together and bury even the most
painful of their memories and go beyond them.
Special services and events have already taken place
in churches around the world, and more are planned.
Flags are flying at half-mast at several English
cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey, where "a steady stream of
visitors have been in throughout the day" to sign a book of
condolence that has been opened in St Margaret's Church. Just
outside the Abbey's grounds is a statue of Nelson Mandela in
Parliament Square, which has become a focus for people paying their
The Abbey has announced that a Service of
Thanksgiving for the Life of Nelson Mandela will be held at a date
to be decided. It is expected that further details will be
announced towards the end of next week.
A special service will be held on Sunday afternoon in
Worcester cathedral. The Dean of Worcester, the Very Revd Peter
Atkinson, said : "Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of
our time, and the whole world is indebted to him."
In Southwark Cathedral, where Mr Mandela opened
officially opened the Millennium Buildings in 2001, the Bishop, the
Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, and the Dean, the Very Revd Andrew
Nunn, held an "informal and impromptu moment of commemoration and
prayer" in the Mandela Porch.
"It is hard to imagine our world without the towering
figure of Nelson Mandela, and I pray that he may rest in peace and
rise in glory at the end of his most extraordinary earthly life,"
Dean Nunn said. "I was privileged to meet Dr Mandela when he came
to open the Millennium Buildings . . . On that day he said that he
was certain that he spoke for the people of his country in
'expressing gratitude for the prayers and support of the British
and world Church through our dark years of suffering and in our
struggle against apartheid'. His name is inscribed into the stones
of the porch as a reminder of his visit, and his memory will be
alive in Southwark Cathedral and demonstrated in the legacy of
inclusion and reconciliation for communities we will continue to
"In the death of Nelson Mandela the world has lost
one of its noblest figures. His courage, dignity and unswerving
loyalty to truth made his long walk to freedom an inspiration for
untold millions of people, especially those who continue to live
under tyranny," said the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John
Pritchard, whose diocese is linked with that of Kimberley &
Kuruman in South Africa.
"His years of imprisonment only strengthened his
moral and spiritual resources. His leadership was marked by the
most remarkable magnanimity such that, for example, he made sure
his Robben Island jailer was invited to his installation as
President. His partnership with Archbishop Desmond Tutu was crucial
to the cause of freedom and equality, and the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission embodied his spirit of forgiveness and
He said that the people of South Africa "may have
lost the Father of the Nation, but they live more securely as
children of God because of the character and courage of that great
In the United States, the great bell of Christ Church
Cathedral, Missouri, tolled 95 times - once for each year of Mr
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said that the Queen
was "deeply saddened" to learn of his death: "He worked tirelessly
for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South
Africa we see today."
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, paid his tribute
on the steps of 10 Downing Street. "A great light has gone out in
the world," he said. "Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our
time; a legend in life and now in death - a true global hero.
Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the
embodiment of grace."
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge heard the news
while attending the royal première of Mandela: Long walk to
freedom, a new film based on the late President's
autobiography, which goes on general release in the New
"It's obviously extremely sad and tragic news,"
Prince William said before leaving the cinema. "We're just reminded
of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was, and
my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now."
"Nelson Mandela moved the world and the world will
miss him very deeply," the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said. "He
was the inspirational figure of our age. He showed us the true
meaning of courage, of hope and of reconciliation. And he showed us
the power of people to overcome the mightiest of obstacles in the
name of justice."
Speaking on Today, Lord Boateng, a Methodist
lay preacher and Britain's first black Cabinet member, who later
served as High Commissioner to South Africa, said: "There was a
focus and a discipline to his activism, always. But imbuing it all
was this overpowering sense one had when one met him and worked
with him of the power of love. That's not a word that politicians
use much, but he was a consummate politician."
A Ceremony of Remembrance will be held on Tuesday at
the 95,000-capacity Calabash - a football stadium in Soweto on the
outskirts of Johannesburg, where Mr Mandela made his last public
appearance in July 2010 at the World Cup closing
His body will lie in state in Pretoria to allow VIPs,
world leaders, and ordinary South Africans to pay their
A State Funeral will be held in Qunu, Mandela's
childhood home, on Sunday, 15 December. It is understood that the
burial will follow Xhosa tribal traditions.