- (Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings)
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black President, died at age 95 on Thursday and reports claim that his funeral is set to become one of the largest in history.
The anti-apartheid hero will reportedly be remembered in a 10-day memorial service and his funeral is expected to be held at the Johannesburg soccer stadium next Sunday. It will be broadcast to millions around the world.
Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town and a long-time friend of Mandela's, is expected to hold the Sunday service which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, MailOnline UK reported.
"The United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice, and human dignity -- Nelson Mandela is no longer with us, he belongs to the ages," Obama said.
Other past living US presidents, including Bill Clinton, are also expected to attend the nearly two-week-long memorial among other world leaders. The funeral will take place on day-10 under a large tent and he will be buried in the Eastern Cape village of Quino where he was raised, CNN reported.
"The one gift that you and I can give to the world, as a fitting memorial, remembrance of Tata, is for us to become what the world had thought impossible," Tutu said while offering a prayer of thanks for Mandela's life at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Friday. "Let us give him the gift of a South Africa united."
Shortly after news of Mandela's passing broke, South African President Jacob Zuma directed the nation's flags to be flown at half-mast starting Friday. They will likely remain that way in late freedom fighter's honor, until after his funeral.
Obama also ordered that American flags be lowered to half-staff through Monday in honor of Mandela, who he acknowledged as having "transformed South Africa -- and moved the entire world."
Mandela died of a recurring lung infection at home in Houghton, Johannesburg at 8.50pm on Thursday while surrounded by family. His body was placed in a coffin draped in the South African flag and moved to a military hospital in Pretoria on Friday morning, where he is under armed guard.
News of Mandela's passing ultimately brought South Africa's 53 million to a standstill. Mourners gathered around the nation to celebrate the life of the Nobel Peace winner, who was often referred to as "Madiba" or "Tata" (meaning "Father of the nation").
The global icon spent 27 years in apartheid prisons after being convicted of sabotage and treason in 1964. He served 18 of the 27 years on the notorious Robben Island, near Cape Town, before South African President F.W. de Klerk ordered his release in 1990.
In 1993 de Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in ending apartheid. In 1994 Mandela took office, ultimately becoming South Africa's first black President.
"Death is something inevitable," Mandela said in an interview for the 1996 documentary "Mandela."
"When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace," he continued. "I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity."
Mandela was a man who dedicated much of his life to achieving justice and equality for the people. Despite having been faced with impossible challenges, he used his platform to teach the world the importance of love and the power of faith even during the darkest of times.