Nelson Mandela regularly received Communion from a Catholic priest while he was a prisoner on Robben Island, The Tablet reports.
The anti-apartheid campaigner, who died last Thursday, attended Mass and received Communion from a Jesuit chaplain, although he was raised and registered as a Methodist, the provincial of the Jesuits in East Africa said.
Writing in this week’s Tablet, Fr Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator commented that, as well as benefitting from the services of a Methodist chaplain, 'I have reliable information that he also received regular visits from a Jesuit chaplain. According to my source, Mandela used to come to Mass and receive Communion.'
Fr Orobator noted that this 'act of intercommunion, given his situation, would be licit under canon law.' Christians from other denominations are permitted to receive Communion from a Catholic priest if they are unable to get to a Eucharistic service within their own tradition.
Fr Orobator said that while Mandela believed in God, he was not a fan of organised religion, but 'like any astute politician, he knew the place of religion in politics and was not averse to using it as much as was necessary.'
'He counted notable religious figures among his friends and relied on the support of a confluence of religious traditions in his spirited and long-drawn struggle to dismantle the apartheid system.' Among them was the late Archbishop of Durban, Denis Hurley, who met or had contact with Mandela on a number of occasions.