Nelson Mandela Spends 'Restful' Easter in Hospital

South African presidency thanked people for their Easter prayers for Mandela.

March 31, 2013— -- Former South African president Nelson Mandela spent a "restful" Easter in the hospital, where doctors continue to see further improvement in his condition, the South African presidency said today.

Mandela, 94, was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday night with a recurring lung infection.

President Jacob Zuma thanked people around the world today for keeping the anti-Apartheid crusader in their thoughts and prayers over the holiday weekend.

On Saturday, Zuma's office reported that Mandela was able "to breathe without difficulty."

"Doctors advise that due to the lung infection former President Mandela has developed a pleural effusion which was tapped," the presidency said in a statement. "This has resulted in him being now able to breathe without difficulty. He continues to respond to treatment and is comfortable."

Full Coverage: Nelson Mandela

Mandela, 94, spent 18 days in the hospital in December for a lung infection and gallstones.

Earlier this month, he was hospitalized overnight for scheduled medical tests, according to the presidency.

PHOTOS: Mandela Through the Years

Mandela served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999.

Despite rare public appearances, Mandela, who is credited with changing race relations in South Africa, remains hugely popular in the country.

In November 2012, banknotes featuring Mandela's image were printed and entered into circulation in South Africa.

After enduring nearly three decades of prison, much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry, Mandela emerged as a gentle leader who became South Africa's first black president.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in ending apartheid without violence, and later became a global statesman who inspired millions people around the world.