Like almost all world leaders, Pope Francis has paid tribute to the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela:
It was with sadness that I learned of the death of former President Nelson Mandela, and I send prayerful condolences to all the Mandela family, to the members of the Government and to all the people of South Africa. In commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss. Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations. With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.
One expects a certain amount of accentuating the positive and overlooking the negative when someone dies. PopeWatch would not expect the Pope to critique the career of Mr. Mandela at this time. However, PopeWatch does wish that the Pope had been a bit more careful in his phrasing. Mr, Mandela doubtless deserves the lion’s share of the credit that the power transition, certainly not without violence, in South Africa, did not become a blood bath which it might well have become without the usually conciliatory and statesmanlike tone he followed after 27 years in South African jails.
However, when the Pope stated that Mr. Mandela promoted the human dignity of all South Africans he was incorrect. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, corrects the record:
“Many people around the world and in our own nation are mourning the loss of former South African President Nelson Mandela,” Bishop Tobin commented in a statement. “Indeed there is much to admire in Mandela’s long life and public service, particularly his personal courage and his stalwart defense of human rights.
“There is part of President Mandela’s legacy, however, that is not at all praiseworthy, namely his shameful promotion of abortion in South Africa. In 1996 Mandela promoted and signed into law the ‘Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill’ that, according to the New York Times, ‘replaced one of the world’s toughest abortion laws with one of the most liberal.’”
Tobin continues: “While we pray for the peaceful repose of President Mandela’s immortal soul and the forgiveness of his sins, we can only regret that his noble defense of human dignity did not include the youngest members of our human family, unborn children.”