JOHANNESBURG — South Africans of all races flocked to houses of worship Sunday for a national day of prayer and reflection to honor Nelson Mandela as a large contingent of foreign dignitaries, including royalty, begin arriving in the country to pay their final respects to the liberation struggle icon.
The government said Sunday that 53 heads of state and government as well as a broad range of eminent persons had confirmed that they would be attending a national memorial service and state funeral for the country's first black and democratically-elected president. The memorial service is expected to be one of the biggest in modern times.
Hundreds attended the Regina Mundi Church that was at the epicenter of the Soweto township uprising in 1976 against white rule. The Rev. Sebastian J. Rossouw described Mandela as "moonlight," saying he offered a guiding light for South Africa. Hundreds of people attended the Mass.
"Madiba did not doubt the light," Rossouw said, referring to Mandela by his clan name. "He paved the way for a better future, but he cannot do it alone."
During the service, worshippers offered special prayers for the anti-apartheid leader and lit a candle in his honor in front of the altar. Off to the side of the sanctuary was a black and white photo of Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95.
Read more in Monday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.