|Cardinal Peter Turkson|
Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was appointed as Pope Francis’ special envoy to the memorial service of Nelson Mandela, will also be celebrating Mass later this week in honour of Nelson Mandela.
The Mass will be celebrated at 5 pm on Friday, 13 December 2013, in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria. The Cathedral is located on the corner of Bosman and Nana Sita Streets in Pretoria.
While speaking to the information officer of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Turkson said “that it would be a pity if the world leaders travelled so far at such a great cost to their nations and still did not strive to live up to the standard that Mandela has set.”
Fr. S’milo Mngadi reported that Cardinal Turkson had also “exhorted the world leaders to express in their leadership the values Mandela stood for.”
I am pleased that Pope Francis, his envoy, Cardinal Peter Turkson, as well as Cardinal Napier and all the bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference have highlighted the many good examples that Nelson Mandela has given us and the incredible good he did.
It is possible, like some Catholics have done, to focus intensively on the fact that Nelson Mandela signed into law the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1996.
But in doing so we completely ignore the fact that, even though it may have been Nelson Mandela who signed the act as the President of South Africa, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act was in fact passed by parliament with 209 votes to 87. It is simply disingenuous to hold Nelson Mandela singlehandedly responsible for the act.
Secondly, we forget the wonderful example of forgiveness that Nelson Mandela showed us. There are not many people who would have forgiven and worked with the same people who kept him imprisoned for 27 years - more than a quarter of his life. It was precisely his capacity to forgive and focus on reconciliation that made the miracle of a democratic South Africa possible.
Instead of focusing on what Nelson Mandela got wrong and what he could or should have done differently, I think it would be far better for us to consider these words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium [My emphasis]:
“An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.”[i]