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South African cardinal pays tribute to Mandela

CAPE TOWN, South Africa: Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle to replace South Africa’s apartheid regime with a multi-racial democracy, died on December 5 at his home in Johannesburg.

Mr Mandela, 95, became the country’s first black president in 1994. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. One of the world’s most revered statesmen, Mr Mandela had a touch of humanity rarely seen in political leaders, said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.

Cardinal Napier represented the South African Catholic Church in discussions between Mr Mandela and Church leaders beginning in 1990, following Mandela’s release after 27 years in prison, until he retired from public life in 2004. Cardinal Napier said he came to treasure Mr Mandela through regular meetings Church leaders had with his African National Congress in the transition from apartheid to democracy.

“I always felt we should introduce ourselves to him again, but it was never necessary,” said the cardinal, who was president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 1987 to 1994.

Mr Mandela “remembered names and faces and always gave us a hearty welcome”, he said.

“I came to realise that if he had met someone he had no trouble remembering their names or where they were from,” he said. “To him, people mattered because of who they were, not the position they held. That’s what I really treasure about the man.”


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