The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada today paid tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela, saying, he is “destined to be remembered in the calendar of holy men and women through the ages.”
Mandela, recognized worldwide as the icon of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa died Dec. 5 at his home in Johannesburg. He had been hospitalized for months due to a lung infection. He was 95.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz said Mandela “stood tall among his people and he gave them hope for a better future.” He was one who “looked ahead and with a strength of spirit that was unwavering,” said Hiltz, and he “pressed for truth and reconciliation in his homeland”-work that was replicated in many other countries around the world. In a statement, Hiltz said Mandela’s activism and work “were a wonderful reflection of a life given to the teaching in the Beatitudes, perhaps most especially the one that reads, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.'”
The primate also noted Mandela’s humility, which “had about it a sense of authority the world will never forget.” And, he added, “Who can forget his wonderful smile? For his family and his people he lived, and in their great love for them he died.”
Hiltz recalled Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown Desmond Tutu’s description of Mandela as “the father of our nation, the pride of our people.”
Mandela was born July 18, 1918, at Qunu, the son of a tribal chief. Educated in a Methodist boarding school during his early years, he attended the University of Fort Hare, from which he was expelled in 1940 because of his political activities. He completed a BA degree by correspondence from the University of South Africa, and an LLB via the University of Witwatersrand. He and anti-apartheid activist and politician Oliver Tambo established the first black legal practice in South Africa. A founding member of the African National Congress Youth League, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 and became the face of his country’s anti-apartheid struggle.
After 27 years in prison, Mandela was released in 1990 and nearly four years later, became South Africa’s first black president in the country’s first democratic, non-racial election. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Mandela retired from public life after his term ended in 1999 but remained active in AIDS causes.