World heads of State, church, global leaders head for Mandela service

The head of the World Council of Churches has arrived in Johannesburg to attend an official memorial service in honor of Nelson Mandela, while the Vatican named a top African cardinal to represent the Roman Catholic Church as Desmond Tutu described the anti-apartheid icon as a magician.

A phalanx of global heads of State and international leaders will join Tuesday's official cermony to pay respects to the man who brought together racially-divided South Africa soon after apartheid and whose generous spirit and leadership enchanted the world.

The first black president of South Africa, Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for his fight against his country's racist system of apartheid, died December 5, aged 95.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, with whom Mandela spent his first night after being released from prison in February 1990 described his deceassed fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate as a "magician" for South Africa.

"Everybody was saying we would go up in flames," Tutu said at memorial service for Mandela in Johannesburg.

"He really was like a magician with a magic wand, turning us into this glorious, multi-coloured rainbow people," Agence France-Presse reported.


"This repulsive caterpillar, South Africa, that used to be the world's pariah, he turned into a beautiful, beautiful butterfly. That is what we are celebrating."

Still Tutu said Mandela did have a weakness and that was his loyalty to South Africa's African National Congress, which he once led.

"Like a most precious diamond he was virtually flawless. Did he have weaknesses, of course he did, among them his steadfast loyalty to his organisation and some of his colleagues who ultimately let him down. Retained in the cabinet underperforming, frankly incompetent ministers."

Meanwhile, Pope Francis appointed Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as his special envoy to participate at South Africa's National Memorial service in memory of Mandela.

During the election process for a pontiff to succeed Pope Benedict XVI in February, Turkson's name frequently cropped up as one of the favorite candidates.

Former British leaders John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown will join current Prime Minister David Cameron for Tuesday's service at Soweto's FNB stadium.


"By noon today, 91 heads of State and 10 former heads of Sstate confirmed they will attend the memorial at FNB Stadium," South Africa's Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told the South African Press Association.

There 91 heads of State including U.S. President Barack Obama will pay their respects to Mandela along with 80,000 mourners.

Three other large stadiums in the greater Johannesburg area will accommodate mourners.

World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit visited the Mandela home in Houghton, Johannesburg on Monday where he laid roses and then offered condolences to the Mandela family.

Afterwards he was to share in a prayer service with the family that was to involve South African church leaders.

On Tuesday, Tveit is to attend a massive memorial service for Mandela being held at the First National Bank Stadium near Johannesburg.

Nearly 100 heads of state will be attending the ceremony.


"It important that the WCC be present in South Africa during the time when South Africans and all of us mourn the passing of one of the great leaders for justice and peace in our time," Tveit said.

"For the Church it is a moment to recognize the longterm relationship that the WCC had with Mandela during the struggle against apartheid and the future of the Church as we gain inspiration from his example in working for equality, reconciliation, justice and peace," he said.

Mandela visited the WCC offices in June 1990, only a few months after his release from prison and in December 1998 spoke at the once every seven years meeting of the main governing of the WCC its 8th assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday, Tveit will be participating in an interfaith service in South Africa's administrative capital Pretoria, where Mandela was sworn in as president on the Pretoria.

Mandela's body will then lie in State for the following three days.

Tveit returns to the WCC offices in Geneva on Thursday to prepare for a memorial service for Mandela at the Ecumenical Centre on Monday, December 16.

Celebrating the life and works of Nelson Mandela, Agnes Abuom, the first African moderator of the World Council of Churches, on Monday called Mandela a "global icon of justice, peace and dignity" for Africa and the world.

"We affirm the role played by this global icon for inspiring and restoring dignity for Africa and revitalizing hope for the marginalized and oppressed of the world," said Abuom who is an Anglican Kenyan.

"Mandela's message during his visit to the WCC headquarters in Geneva after his release from prison in 1990, and his address at the WCC 8th Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998, greatly encouraged and strengthened our commitment in our search for reconciliation, healing and forgiveness," she said.

Abuom noted, "Mandela's legacy includes his capacity to forgive his enemies, which inspires us in a world where we all yearn for a just peace."


- US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. Three predecessors, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, along with Secretary of State and former first lady Hillary Clinton, will also be present.

- French President Francois Hollande, accompanied by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

- British Prime Minister David Cameron

- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

- President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas

- Cuban President Raul Castro

- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan

- Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara

- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

- Afghan President Hamid Karzai

- Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki

- Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

- German President Joachim Gauck

- Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati

- Chinese Vice President Liu Yuanchao

- Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid

- Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain

- Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa

- Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


- Britain's heir to the throne, Prince Charles

- The King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander

- Crown Prince of Denmark Frederik

- Crown Prince Haakon of Norway

- Saudi Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud

- Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito


- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

- Chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

- European Union President Herman van Rompuy

- Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi and ex-Irish president Mary Robinson will represent the group called The Elders, founded by Mandela in 2007.


- U.S. talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey, singer and activist Bono, British singer Peter Gabriel, South African-born Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, and British airline magnate Richard Branson are among the stars attending the ceremony.

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