Nelson Mandela

‘The Catholic Church is particular has played a very important role in the fight for justice.’ – Nelson Mandela

On this day in 2013, South African human rights activist Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95.

Like many black children in early 20th-century South Africa, Mandela attended mission school. He was enrolled in Methodist Boarding schools, and then went to the University of South Africa.

In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. During his 27 years in prison, he later wrote that he was inspired by the pastoral care provided by the Catholic chaplains. One of Mandela’s prison visitors was Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Stephen Naidoo. The two became friends. Mandela was especially pleased when the bishop was named archbishop of Cape Town in 1984.

Upon his release from prison in 1990, one of Mandela’s first trips abroad was to the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II.

In 1994, Mandela was elected the first black president of a democratic South Africa.

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