Archbishop Desmond Tutu: South Africa starts week of mourning for anti-apartheid icon

The bells at Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral will toll daily to honour the late Archbishop
DECEASED- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

By Emma Rumney

PRETORIA- South Africa has started a week of events in honour of anti-apartheid veteran Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died peacefully in a Cape Town nursing home on Sunday at the age of 90.

His body will lie in state for two days before his funeral is held on 1 January at Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral, where the bells will toll for 10 minutes each day at noon until Friday to mark Mr Tutu’s passing.

Mourners have been laying flowers to honour Tutu, who preached against the tyranny of the white minority and was revered as his nation’s moral compass by Black and white alike, while tributes to him have poured in from across the world.

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South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said flags would be flown at half mast nationwide, and at South African diplomatic missions abroad, until the night before Archbishop Tutu’s funeral service.

“In the days to come, we will mourn this global icon of peace and freedom,” he said in an address to the nation late on Sunday.

“We will recount his achievements, we will recall his teachings, and we will cherish fond memories of this man who always tempered criticism with compassion.”

Cape Town’s city hall, Arch for Arch (a monument commemorating Tutu) and the iconic Table Mountain were illuminated in purple on Sunday, a nod to the robes Tutu often wore.

A long-time friend of Nelson Mandela, Tutu won the Nobel Prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to white minority rule. A decade later, he witnessed the end of that regime and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to unearth the atrocities committed under it.

Tutu later called the Black political elite to account with as much feistiness as he had the Afrikaners, but his enduring spirit of reconciliation always shone through and he never stopped fighting for a “Rainbow Nation”. He also used his profile to campaign against corruption, poverty, xenophobia and homophobia, and to raise awareness of HIV and Aids.

The Diocese of Pretoria and the South African Council of Churches will hold a memorial service in the capital city on Wednesday.

On Thursday evening, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Intellectual Property Trust and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation will host an “intimate evening” with friends of the Tutu family.

“His heart was big enough to hold the whole world in love,” Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, said of her father in an interview for the Trouw newspaper in the Netherlands, where she lives and works as an Anglican priest.

“He was in the company of the most powerful people on earth, and he sat with the smallest, the weakest, the poorest and the neediest. He did it with the same love and laugh,” she said of the archbishop, who was known for his infectious giggle.

On Friday, Tutu will lie in state at St George’s ahead of Saturday’s funeral service, which will be led by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

The Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Michael Weeder, told a news conference alongside Archbishop Makgoba on Monday that Tutu’s ashes would be interred in an ossuary behind the pulpit in accordance with his wishes.

Mr Makgoba said a list of possible attendees ran to as many as 500 names, but that Covid regulations limiting funerals to a maximum of 100 people must be respected.

“Only a fraction of those who want to be there can be accommodated,” he said, urging others to pay their respects at services to be held in churches and cathedrals around the country.

Queen Elizabeth, former US president Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama were among the many high-profile figures from around the world to pay tribute to Tutu following his death.

Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and repeatedly underwent treatment. He gradually withdrew from public life and spent more time with his family in recent years. In one of his last public appearances this year, he visited a hospital in a wheelchair to get a Covid vaccine.

The archbishop had been ill for several months and died peacefully at 7am (0500 GMT) on Sunday, according to his relatives.

Reuters & Independent UK

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