© Reuters. People come to St. Peter’s Cathedral. Georges to pay tribute to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu during his stay in the state, in Cape Town, South Africa, December 30, 2021. REUTERS / Mike Hutchings
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – President Cyril Ramaphosa praised the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “our moral compass and national conscience” as South Africa bade farewell at a state funeral on Saturday against anti-apartheid heroes.
“Our late father was a crusader in the fight for freedom, for justice, for equality and peace, not only in South Africa, the country of his birth, but all over the world,” said Ramaphosa, speaking a major hymn in St George’s Cathedral’s service. Cape Town, where for years Tutu preached against racial injustice.
The president then handed over the national flag to Tutu’s widow Nomalizo Leah, known as “Mama Leah”. Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent opposition to white minority rule, died last Sunday at the age of 90.
His widow was sitting in a wheelchair in the front row of the congregation, wearing a purple scarf, the color of her husband’s priestly robe. Ramaphosa wore a matching tie.
In Cape Town, the city where Tutu lived most of his later life, an unusual rain fell early Saturday as mourners gathered to say goodbye to a man known as “The Arch”.
The sun shone brightly after the requiem mass as six clergymen in white robes who wore palls carried the coffin from the cathedral to the funeral chariot.
Tutu’s body will be cremated and then his ashes will be buried behind the cathedral pulpit in a private ceremony.
“Small in stature, he was a giant among us morally and spiritually,” said retired Bishop Michael Nuttall, who served as Tutu’s deputy for many years.
Life-size Tutu posters, arms folded, were placed in front of the cathedral, where the number of believers was limited in accordance with COVID-19 measures.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who leads the global Anglican community, said in a recorded message: “People said ‘when we were in the dark, he brought light’ and that … it illuminated countries globally struggling with fear, conflict, persecution, oppression. ”
Tutu’s family members were visibly emotional.
His daughter, the Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu, thanked the well-wishers for their support at the beginning of the Mass, and her voice briefly trembled with emotion.
Widely esteemed in racial and cultural divisions in South Africa for his moral integrity, Tutu never stopped fighting for his vision of a “Rainbow Nation” in which all races in South Africa after apartheid could live in harmony.
Hundreds of well-wishers stood in line Thursday and Friday to pay their last respects as his body lay in the cathedral.
As the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu turned St George’s into what is known as the “National Cathedral” a haven for anti-apartheid activists during the turbulent 1980s and 1990s when security forces brutally suppressed a mass democratic movement.
A small crowd of about 100 people followed the funeral procession on the big screen in the Grand Parade, opposite City Hall where Tutu joined Nelson Mandela when he gave his first speech since his release from prison.
“We have come to pay our last respects to our father Tut. We love our father who taught us love, unity and respect for each other, ”said mother Phila, a 54-year-old Rastafarian woman clad in the green, red and yellow of her faith.
Mandela, who became the country’s first president after apartheid and who died in December 2013, once said of his friend: “Sometimes sharp, often gentle, never scared and rarely without humor, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless. ”