President Cyril Ramaphosa praised the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “our moral compass and national conscience” as South Africa said goodbye at a state funeral on Saturday against anti-apartheid heroes.
“Our late father was a crusader in the fight for freedom, justice, equality and peace, not only in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world,” said Ramaphosa, speaking of the main hymn at the service at St. George’s Cathedral. Cape Town, where Tutu preached against racial injustice for years.
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.
Cape Town, the city where Tutu lived most of his later life, fell in unusual rain early Saturday as mourners gathered to say goodbye to a man known for miles as “Onion”.
The sun shone brightly after the Mass of Remembrance as six clergymen in white robes pulled the coffin from the cathedral to the funeral chariot as bearers.
Tutu’s body will be cremated, and then his ashes will be buried behind the pulpit of the cathedral in a private ceremony.
“Small physical growth, he was a giant among us in moral and spiritual terms,” said retired Bishop Michael Nuttall, who served as Tutu’s deputy for many years.
Life-size Tutu posters with folded arms 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 he illuminated countries around the world 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 trembled briefly with emotion.
Widely respected 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 could live in harmony after apartheid.
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 “People’s Cathedral” a haven for anti-apartheid activists during the turbulent 1980s and 1990s when security forces brutally suppressed the mass democratic movement.
A small crowd of about 100 people followed the funeral 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 Tutu. 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, the voice of Desmond Tutu will always be the voice of the voiceless. ”