Photo by the Associated Press
A South African archbishop has written a prayer hoping Nelson Mandela will have a "peaceful, perfect end" as the anti-apartheid icon remained in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital.
Thabo Makgoba, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, visited Mandela in the hospital on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
Makgoba said he used the prayer while at the hospital to "offer spiritual support" to Mandela's wife Graca Machel, his family and "all attending to Madiba," the 94-year-old former president's clan name.
The prayer said, "May your arms of love, stretched wide on the cross for us, Now enfold Madiba, and Graca, with compassion, comfort and the conviction that you will never forsake them but that you will grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering."
"And may your blessing rest upon Madiba now and always. Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end," it added.
Makgoba later posted the prayer on his Facebook page.
There was no update on Mandela's condition from the South African president's office early Wednesday.
His condition was downgraded from "serious but stable" to "critical" over the weekend, and on Tuesday the president's office said that had not changed.
On Tuesday, Mandela's daughter Zindzi Mandela said her father had opened his eyes and "gave me a smile" when she told him of Barack Obama's imminent visit to South Africa.
Obama is due to arrive in South Africa on Friday, but it is unclear whether there are any plans for the two men to meet.
Mandela's family and chief members of his clan held what was described as an urgent meeting at his rural home in Qunu, Eastern Cape province, on Tuesday. No details on what was discussed in the meeting were announced.
A crowd of well-wishers have been gathering outside the hospital, where 100 white doves were released on Tuesday.
"Let's accept instead of crying," Lucas Aedwaba, a security officer who described Mandela as a hero, told the Associated Press. "Let's celebrate that the old man lived and left his legacy."
Mandela spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule and became South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994, playing an indispensable role in steering the country through a tense transition that many feared would deteriorate into widespread bloodshed.
After his presidency, he focused his work on charitable causes, but withdrew from public life years ago and became increasingly frail in recent years.
Dan Lehman, an American academic, chose a jogging route on Wednesday morning that passed by the hospital where Mandela is being treated.
"I was just going out for my morning run down here and come to pay my respects to the greatest man in the world," Lehman told the AP. Then he began to cry.
By Ian Johnston, Staff Writer, NBC News