Archbishop at special service for Nelson Mandela

The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised Nelson Mandela for his "extraordinary" courage at a service of thanksgiving for the life of the former South African president, who died last week.

The Most Rev Justin Welby told a congregation at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London's Trafalgar Square that the 95-year-old was the "rarest of leaders" as he thanked God for his life.

He called for prayers for South Africa as the nation mourned Mr Mandela and sought to find those to continue his work.

Ask God for every nation to have leaders who are full of courage and resist evil, who learn from suffering, who turn that learning into love and make both into reality. And thank God for Nelson Mandela, South Africa's amazing grace.

– The Most Rev Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury

The service was led by the Rev Dr Sam Wells, vicar of St Martin's. He highlighted the church's history of close involvement with the anti-apartheid struggle and questioned whether the chains of apartheid would ever have been broken without "this remarkable man".

Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion read a poem called To Nelson Mandela: A Tribute during the service.

Westminster Abbey will hold a national service of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Mandela after the state funeral in South Africa on December 15, and parliament will hold a special ceremony to commemorate his life.

A book of condolence has been opened in St Margaret's Church at the abbey.