Archbishop Desmond Tutu remembered at state funeral in South Africa

The state funeral for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, has been held in Cape Town where he once preached against racial injustice.

Key points:

  • Desmond Tutu's widow Nomalizo Leah sat in a wheelchair at the funeral, draped in purple scarf
  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the main eulogy
  • After cremation, the Archbishop's body will be interred behind the Cape Town pulpit from where he once denounced racial inequality

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the main eulogy for Archbishop Tutu at St George's Cathedral a week after his death at the age of 90.

The archbishop, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1984, has been praised around the world for his role in helping transform South Africa with his non-violent opposition to white minority rule.

His widow Nomalizo Leah, known as Mama Leah, sat in a wheelchair in the front row of the church, draped in a purple scarf.

Mr Ramaphosa sat alongside her, with a matching necktie.

Desmond Tutu's widow Leah Tutu (centre) wore purple, the colour of the Archbishop's clerical robes.(Reuters: Jaco Marais)

"If we are to understand a global icon to be someone of great moral stature, of exceptional qualities, and of service to humanity, there can be no doubt that it refers to the man we are laying to rest today," Mr Ramaphosa said.

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"Archbishop Desmond Tutu was without question a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace. Not only in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world as well."

The cathedral, as well as Table Mountain which rises above Cape Town, have been illuminated every night this week in purple, the colour of Archbishop Tutu's clerical robes.

Hundreds of well-wishers had queued on Thursday and Friday to pay their last respects as he lay in state at the cathedral.

On Saturday, his simple coffin was once again wheeled into the church as the requiem mass got under way.

The choir then gave a resounding rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Mpho Tutu, Desmond Tutu's daughter, sat quietly on her own during the state funeral.(Reuters: Jaco Marais)

The archbishop was widely revered across South Africa's racial and cultural divides for his moral integrity, known as the nation's moral compass.

'A moral and spiritual giant'

He never stopped fighting for his vision of a Rainbow Nation in which all races in post-apartheid South Africa could live in harmony.

"Small in physical stature, he was a giant among us morally and spiritually," said retired Bishop Michael Nuttall, who served as the archbishop's deputy for many years.

His body will be cremated in a private ceremony after the requiem mass and will then be interred behind the pulpit from where he once denounced bigotry and racial tyranny.

A small crowd of around 100 people followed the funeral proceedings on a big screen at the Grand Parade, opposite City Hall where Archbishop Tutu joined Nelson Mandela when he gave his first speech after being freed from prison.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was remembered as a man whose light shone brighter after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.(Reuters: Shelley Christians)

"When we were in the dark, he brought light," Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the worldwide Anglican church, said in a video message shown at St. George's Cathedral.

"Many Nobel winners' lights have grown dimmer over time, but Archbishop Tutu's has grown brighter."

Mandela, who became the country's first post-apartheid president and who died in December 2013, once described his friend as "the voice of the voiceless".

"Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless."



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