Mandela’s legacy is one of ‘reconciliation,’ priest says

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2013 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In wake of the passing of Nelson Mandela, spokesman for South Africa’s Episcopal Conference lauded his political achievements, stating that he will be remembered most for his work in fostering unity.

The political legacy of Mandela can be described in “one word: reconciliation,” Fr. Similo Mngadi told CNA in a Dec. 6 interview.

“He made you feel human, and want to be human.”

Nelson Mandela, the South African revolutionary who headed the country’s anti-apartheid movement, fighting to replace it with a multiracial democracy, died at the age of 95 in his Johannesburg home after a long battle with illness.

Regarding the politician’s Dec. 5 passing, Fr. Mngadi, spokesman for the South African Episcopal Conference, explained that many in South Africa are experiencing “mixed feelings,” because although Mandela had been suffering various health problems the last few years, “he was an icon for everybody.”

He was “good for reconciliation,” observed the spokesman, reflecting that he “put everyone together,” and that his work was a “point of cohesion” for the division in the country.
 
South Africa’s apartheid originally developed after the Second World War, and was strictly enforced by the country’s National Party governments, who implemented the movement as a means of racial segregation, and under which the rights of most blacks were seriously restricted.

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.

During his time in office Mandela collaborated closely with Church officials in overcoming racial tensions, Fr. Mngadi recalled, highlighting how he continued to work alongside South Africa’s current cardinal until his death.

The Episcopal Conference of South Africa offered Mass for the political icon this morning at 8:30, the spokesman noted, stating that a special Mass will be held at 1p.m. in Capetown’s Our Lady of the Flight to Egypt’s cathedral in his honor.

Marta Jimenez Ibanez contributed to this report.

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