Former South African president Nelson Mandela is in the prayers of the country's Catholic Church following his hospitalization for a severe illness.
Nelson Mandela, 92, was being treated for an acute respiratory infection at Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital this week. He was released on Jan. 28 and is now recovering at his nearby home.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa told Fides news that Catholics throughout southern Africa are praying for the ex-president's “speedy recovery” and for his family.
Speaking on behalf of Catholics in Botswana and Swaziland as well as his native South Africa, Cardinal Napier said that Mandela “means different things to different people.”
“To his family he is a veritable patriarch who stands for and is an example of the virtues of a truly great and loving Father, who cares for all near and dear to him.
“To the nation, he is a great and inspiring leader,” said Cardinal Napier.
He called Mandela a “true icon” of the reconciliation and unity he championed in post-apartheid South Africa.
He became the first president elected by vote of all South Africans, bringing to an end more than 40 years of the legal racial segregation known as apartheid.
“To the international community, he is a unique African and global statesman who rose above personal, tribal, race and party interests in order to lead the South African nation through a difficult transition from apartheid to democracy,” continued the cardinal.
He used the opportunity to send a message to Mandela himself. He concluded the message with the Xhosa word for fathers: “Tata, you are in our prayers.”
Mandela is expected to make a full recovery.