US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Remembering Nelson Mandela

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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News spread quickly yesterday upon learning of the death of Nelson Mandela at age 95. The former president of South Africa and iconic leader of that nation’s fight to end apartheid was met with a global outpouring of grief and remembrance.

National Catholic Reporter makes mention of the role of the church throughout years of conflict in South Africa, while the UK’s Catholic Herald reminds us that Mandela was inspired by the church’s work during his long imprisonment. Pope Francis, himself well on his way to being remembered as an inspirational leader, said in a telegram to current South African president Jacob Zuma: "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."

CNN has compiled an extensive section of coverage on Mandela, including a poignant slideshow of many of Mandela’s inspirational quotations that will continue to resonate with us long into the future. Just one example: “Our struggle for freedom and justice was a collective effort…It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.”

Of significance as well is a reflection written at AllAfrica by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. While Tutu spoke highly of Mandela, I find it important that he spoke also of Mandela’s faults. It can be easy to forget that someone so great, so inspirational, so legendary, was ultimately not perfect—a human, just like the rest of us are. Tutu acknowledged that he and Mandela publically disagreed a number of times, but that in the end, Mandela’s selflessness was what allowed him to be a true leader.

Tutu concludes by saying:

The world is a better place for Nelson Mandela. He showed in his own character, and inspired in others, many of God's attributes: goodness, compassion, a desire for justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. He was not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.


Flickr photo of Mandela statue at South African embassy in Washington cc by tedeytan