Pope hopes Mandela will inspire new hope

Pope Francis joined Church and government leaders from around the world in crediting Nelson Mandela for a steadfast commitment to promoting human rights and upholding the dignity of all people.

In a message to South Africa President Jacob Zuma, Pope Francis said he offered a prayer to assure that Mr Mandela’s efforts to forge a new nation based on nonviolence, reconciliation and truth after the apartheid era “will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations”.

Mr Mandela, who had been battling complications from a lung infection, died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5. He was 95.

Others commended Mr Mandela for leading a peaceful transition to democratic rule after he was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years and his election in 1994 as South Africa’s first black president.


The Church in Southern Africa said the death of Mr Mandela brought great sadness and expressed its gratitude “for the sacrifice he made for all peoples of South Africa and for the leadership and inspiration he gave in leading us on the path of reconciliation”.

“The greatest way we can acknowledge the life of Nelson Mandela is to strive for the ideals he cherished: freedom, equality and democracy, and to defend these ideals from those who would corrupt them,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement signed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

Never compromised

Mr Mandela “never compromised on his principles and vision for a democratic and just South Africa where all have equal opportunities, even at great cost to his own freedom,” the statement said.

When Mr Mandela was released from prison, “the country was in turmoil and blood was being spilt almost daily,” the bishops said.

“Through his leadership at that time, reinforced when he became president in 1994, he led the country on the path of reconciliation and peace, calling on South Africans to throw all arms of destruction into the sea. For this we shall always be indebted to him,” they said.


Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, said Mr Mandela “lived the values that make life truly meaningful” and explained that the former president’s “memory invites us to reflect on our call to be human beings with each other and for each other”.

The bishop recalled one day in November 1995 in which he met Mr Mandela twice: once at the funeral of a king of the Bafokeng people and later in Oukasie, a tumbledown township that was the site of significant struggle during apartheid, for a gathering of the international Young Christian Workers.

In Oukasie, Mr Mandela “headed straight for the kids who were there and there was such mutual joy at seeing each other,” Bishop Dowling said, noting that Mr Mandela “always had such smiling eyes and an exceptional love for children”.

Then Mr Mandela “asked me if the people at the meeting were all from different countries and when I confirmed this, he said, ‘then I must greet them all personally’.”

“So there was this old man, who had had a very long day, shaking hands with every person there, asking them what country they were from. And the look on those young people’s faces as he did that,” Bishop Dowling said.

Reaching out

The values Mandela portrayed – “understanding, compassion, reaching out to others – are values I aspire to, and I think every one of us feels the same. He was what we yearn to be ourselves: profoundly human,” he said.


An extraordinary person and statesman – Archbishop Martin


Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin paid tribute to former President of South African as "an extraordinary person and statesman".

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking as he opened a conference in Dublin on Christian-Muslim Dialogue on Friday morning just hours after Mr Mandelaís death broke.

Dr Martin met Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions, once, shortly after he was released from prison in 1990 as part of a Church delegation. "He was working out of two or three rooms in a rented building. He was there with Walter Sisulu, a friend of his in the ANC.

"The amazing thing was the simplicity of the setting – it was the simplicity which belongs to the great," Archbishop Martin said.

Dr Martin served as an interpreter at the 1990 meeting and recalled how Mr Mandela approached him afterwards to thank him and ask about Ireland. "It is the measure of someone great when they have time for everybody, they donít put themselves at the centre," Archbishop Martin said.