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PRETORIA Braves Phil Niekro Jersey , Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of South Africans, liberation war veterans, government officials and members of the Mandela family gathered at the government offices at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Friday, at a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela's death.

Mandela's family, led by his wife Gracha Machel and Mandla Mandela, laid the first wreathes at the foot of Mandela's massive statue just outside the Union Buildings.

This was followed by liberation war veterans and Mandela's great grand children all wearing white T-shirts.

Delivering her speech on behalf of the Mandela family, his wife Gracha Machel thanked the world icon for choosing her.

"My singular privilege was for him choosing me to be the shoulder he would lean on at the sunset of his life. On the day of his passing I was not able to think because I was numb," said Machel.

"Today I see him tall and pride as all people receive him. I will forever be grateful that he chose me," Machel said.

Machel also gave a hint on what happened during Mandela's last moments at his Houghton home in Johannesburg.

She said that Mandela was surrounded by both the Mandela and the Machel family when passed away.

"We could see in his face the tranquility and peace indicating that he was saying, I leave in peace and I want you to live in peace," said the former president's widow.

Machel also urged the world and South Africa to carry on Mandela's legacy in whatever way possible. "Mandela's legacy is huge. It covers all of us and no one can claim a single ownership of it."

"It is up to each one of us to take the stage and do what you think you can afford to honor his legacy. His legacy is the goodness to save others, which is present in every human being," Machel said.

She called on South Africans to honor Madiba by fighting the challenges of racism, inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Ahmed Kathrada, one of the liberation war veterans who was tried for treason together with Mandela and went on to spend time with him at the Robben Island prison, also gave a moving speech at the wreath laying ceremony.

"Madiba was charismatic, courageous and a democrat. He treated every one of us equally. He fought for freedom and for that freedom he was prepared to die," the comrade-in-arms said.

"We will always be able to remember him as a father and family man," added Kathrada.

He explained how Mandela gave them courage in prison and during the many trials they went through and described him as a man who gave it all for the nation.

Different speakers at the wreath laying ceremony also called on the nation and citizens of the world to dedicate their lives in serving their nations as Mandela did.

Mandela died on December 5, 2013, after spending 67 years of his life fighting for political, economic and social freedom of others. He was buried at his rural home in Qunu, Eastern Cape Province.


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S. Africa to mark 1st anniversary of Mandela's death

CAPE TOWN, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- South Africa will mark the first anniversary of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death in a bid to keep his memory alive and promote social cohesion, an official said Thursday.

"We will use the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela's passing to make a call to all South Africans and the world to keep his memory alive by living his values and continuing with efforts aimed at ensuring that all humanity lives in a society where peace, tolerance, the rule of law, justice and human rights form the cornerstone of our daily lives," the country's Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told reporters in Parliament.

ISTANBUL, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Pope Francis arrived in Istanbul on Saturday following his visit to Ankara, amid tight security measures against any possible radical attacks.

Istanbul raised the security level to red as up to 5,000 policemen were positioned every 50 meters on the way between the airport and Istanbul's historical peninsula, where the Pope visited Sultanahmet mosque and the Hagia Sophia museum.

Turkey already has a bad reputation as the Turkish Mehmet Ali Agca shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in Vatican in 1982.

Pope Francis' visit to Hagia Sophia has been considered symbolically important.

After serving as a Greek Orthodox cathedral of Constantinople for 916 years, the site was then transformed into a mosque with the fall of Byzantine, but today becomes a secular museum for all in Turkey.

The pope is later expected to celebrate mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Sisli, the European district of Istanbul mostly populated by non-Muslim.

He is also expected to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew later on Saturday in a move to develop better ties with the Orthodox churches. The Catholic and the Orthodox churches have been divided for more than 1,000 years.

Pope Francis' visit to Turkey is seen as part of his efforts to bridge different faiths amid the rampage by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

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