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Tributes pour in for Nelson Mandela

06 December 2013

PA

Mourned: Nelson Mandela during his speech as he opened new buildings at Southwark Cathedral, in 2001

Mourned: Nelson Mandela during his speech as he opened new buildings at Southwark Cathedral, in 2001

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 love." 

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 generosity."

"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 own tributes.

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 embody."

"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 hope."

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 man".

In the United States, the great bell of Christ Church Cathedral, Missouri, tolled 95 times - once for each year of Mr Mandela's life.

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 Year. 

"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 ceremony. 

His body will lie in state in Pretoria to allow VIPs, world leaders, and ordinary South Africans to pay their respects.

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.

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