Welby pays tribute at Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was remembered at his funeral on Saturday for his Nobel Peace Prize-winning role in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime of racial oppression and for championing the rights of LGBTQ people.
“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 the Requiem Mass at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.
“For me to praise him is like a mouse giving tribute to an elephant,” he said.
“South Africa has given us extraordinary examples of towering leaders of the rainbow nation with President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu … Many Nobel winners’ lights have grown dimmer over time, but Archbishop Tutu’s has grown brighter.”
Archbishop Tutu died on Boxing Day at the age of 90.
His plain pine coffin, the cheapest available at his request to avoid any ostentatious displays, was at the centre of the service, which also featured African choirs, prayers and incense.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who delivered the eulogy, said: “Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been our moral compass and national conscience.
“Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings as leaders of the democratic state.”
Mr Ramaphosa handed a national flag to Archbishop Tutu’s widow, Leah, as she sat in a wheelchair.
St George’s Cathedral can hold 1,200 worshippers, but only 100 mourners were allowed to attend the funeral because of Covid-19 restrictions.
A few hundred people braved stormy weather to watch the service on a large screen in front of Cape Town City Hall.
The municipal government building is where Archbishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela held their hands aloft on the day in 1990 when Mr Mandela was released after serving 27 years in prison because of his opposition to apartheid.
Michael Nuttall, the retired bishop of Natal, delivered the sermon.
He called his relationship with Archbishop Tutu “an unlikely partnership at a truly critical time in the life of our country from 1989 through 1996, he as Archbishop of Cape Town and I as his deputy.”
With humour, he described himself as “No 2 to Tutu”.
“Our partnership struck a chord, perhaps, in the hearts and minds of many people: a dynamic black leader and his white deputy in the dying years of apartheid,” he continued.
And, hey presto, the heavens did not collapse. We were a foretaste, if you like, of what could be in our wayward, divided nation.”
Two of Archbishop Tutu’s daughters, Mpho and Nontombi, both church ministers, participated in the service along with former Irish president Mary Robinson and Graca Machel, the widow of two African presidents – Samora Machel of Mozambique and Mr Mandela.
The cathedral’s bells rang as Archbishop Tutu’s coffin was taken away after the funeral for a private cremation. His ashes are to be interred at the cathedral.
In the days before the funeral, several thousand people paid their respects by filing past the coffin and signing books of condolence.
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