Johannesburg - Anglican archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu extended his thanks to the Mandela family on Thursday for sharing former president Nelson Mandela with South Africa and the world.
"To Tata Mandela's beloved wife Graca Machel, his former wife Winnie Madikizela, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren... we express our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your... patriarch," he said in a statement issued by his foundation.
"Although we collectively claim him as the father of our nation, and the pain we feel is similar to that of losing a close relative, he was your husband, your father and your grandfather."
Tutu prayed that God would dry the family's tears and renew their strength.
'We thank God for him'
"We thank you for sharing uTata with us and we thank God for him."
Tutu said Mandela had transcended race and class in his personal actions, through his willingness to listen.
"We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory," he said.
People cared about Mandela and loved him because of his courage, convictions and his caring ways for others, said Tutu.
But he was not an anomaly.
"Certainly, he was exceptional, but the spirit of greatness that he personified resides in all of us. Human beings are made for greatness," said Tutu.
"Nelson Mandela embodied and reflected our collective greatness. He embodied our hopes and our dreams. He symbolised our enormous potential, potential that has not always been fulfilled."
Tutu said Madiba had weaknesses, among them his loyalty to the ANC and some of his colleagues.
'Life will go on'
"Was he a saint? Not if a saint is entirely flawless. I believe he was saintly because he inspired others powerfully and revealed in his character, transparently, many of God's attributes of goodness: compassion, concern for others, and a desire for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation."
But life will go on, he said.
"The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next. It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on.
"As we enter the mourning period, as a nation, we do so with the greatest dignity and respect, because that is what we owe Madiba and ourselves."
As a mark of respect for Madiba, Tutu called on South Africans to reach out to one another to prove to the world that the country's greatness was not illusory.
"Let us love one another as we loved him. Let us celebrate Madiba together, and not let him down," he said.
Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.