Johannesburg, South Africa Former President Nelson Mandela launched the first edition Friday of a series of comic books about his life aimed at encouraging young South Africans to read.
“You know you are really famous when becoming a comic character,” the 87-year-old anti-apartheid icon joked at his Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
The nine books are among initiatives – including exhibitions and lectures – aimed at preserving Mandela’s legacy.
By telling Mandela’s story with colorful pictures, the foundation hopes to help overcome the illiteracy that persists more than a decade after apartheid’s end. A million copies will be distributed free at schools and in newspapers.
The first comic book, called “A Son of the Eastern Cape,” covers Mandela’s royal upbringing in rural Transkei and ends with his arrival in Johannesburg, where he would set up South Africa’s first black law firm and lead the armed wing of the now-governing African National Congress.
Russian church hosts Vatican official
Moscow The Vatican’s foreign minister held talks Friday with Russian Orthodox Church leaders and government officials in an effort to expand ties between the Holy See and Moscow.
With hopes that long-standing friction between the Vatican and the Russian church is beginning to ease, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo met with Metropolitan Kirill, who heads the Russian church’s foreign relations department.
“Cooperation between representatives of the Holy See and the Russian Orthodox Church already exists and is very good,” Lajolo said at the beginning of talks with Kirill. “But of course it can come closer and more direct, first of all, so that the very essence of Christian values becomes more understandable.”
Pope John Paul II had long sought to visit Russia, and Pope Benedict XVI has continued his outreach to the Orthodox.
The head of the Russian church, Patriarch Alexy II, maintains that a papal visit to Russia would be possible only after the Catholic Church stops poaching for converts in Russia and other ex-Soviet lands. The Vatican has rejected the proselytizing allegations.
Saudi Arabia set to join WTO by end of the year
Geneva Saudi Arabia was given a green light on Friday to join the World Trade Organization, in time to participate in December’s crucial ministerial summit in Hong Kong, the global commerce body said.
It took 12 years for Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, to complete negotiations to join the WTO – the second-longest accession period after China, which negotiated for 14 years before becoming a member.
“We look forward to the kingdom’s participation in the Hong Kong ministerial meeting as an active member of this organization,” WTO chief Pascal Lamy said.
Saudi Arabia’s accession still must receive final approval by the WTO’s governing general council – a formal step scheduled for November.
The country’s services industry was one of the main stumbling blocks to its membership. Several key WTO members, including the United States and the European Union, had expressed concern over the lack of access to its banking, financing and insurance industries.