After the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Pope Francis issued a letter offering condolences to his family and praising the politician’s commitment to promoting human dignity.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the South African revolutionary who headed the country’s anti-apartheid movement, fighting to replace it with a multiracial democracy, passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home after a long battle with illness.
On the occasion of his death, the Pope sent a Dec. 6 telegram to current president of South Africa Jacob Zuma paying tribute to the “steadfast commitment” of the former president 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.”
In his letter, published in the Vatican Press Office’s “Bulletin,” the pontiff stated that “It was with sadness that I learned of the death of former President Nelson Mandela.”
Expressing his “prayerful condolences” to the Mandela family, the Pope also expressed sympathy “to the members of the Government and to all the people of South Africa.”
“In commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss.”
South Africa’s apartheid was strictly enforced by the country’s National Party governments, who implemented the movement as a means of racial segregation, seriously restricting the rights of the majority of the country’s black population.
After the 1994 overthrow of the apartheid, Mandela, who had previously been imprisoned for 27 years due to his opposition to the government, was elected as South Africa’s first black president, and worked tirelessly to dismantle the remaining legacy of the apartheid until the end of his term in 1999.
Lauding the “commitment” of the political icon’s efforts promoting human dignity as well as unity in the country, the pontiff also prayed “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.”
“With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.”