Emotional Tutu thanks Mandela family

The archbishop says the world has lost a great icon.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu leads a service at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on 6 December 2013. Picture: SAPA.

CAPE TOWN - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Friday thanked the Mandela family for the sacrifices they had to make.

Former president Nelson Mandela passed away at his home in Houghton in northern Johannesburg yesterday evening at the age of 95.

The former president had been battling a recurring lung infection.

A sombre and almost tearful Tutu addressed the media at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) auditorium in Sea Point, Cape Town.

Tutu thanked the Mandela family for their sacrifices over the past few years.

"He was your husband, your father, your grandfather, your great-grandfather. We pray that God will dry your tears and renew your strength. We thank you for sharing Tata with us."

Tutu says the world has lost a great icon.

"We thank God for this incredible gift that he gave us. We are relieved that his suffering is over. We pray that he will rest in peace and rise in glory."

Flags are flying at half-mast across South Africa as well as at the White House and public buildings in the United States, France and at all UK government buildings.

In Britain, the Queen paid tribute to Mandela saying she is "deeply saddened" and a national service of thanksgiving is to be held at Westminster Abbey after the state funeral in South Africa.

This is a highly unusual move for someone who has not been living in the UK.

In some respects, Mandela is being honoured in the UK as though he is a British national.

A book of condolences was opened at Westminster Abbey.

It is just one of a number of high-profile tributes being held across Europe.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the South African High Commission to sign a book of condolences.

"Mr Mandela will inspire generations to come," Cameron wrote.

He also quoted from the Bible, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."