Desmond Tutu eulogized at state funeral as crusader for freedom

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Jan. 1 (UPI) — South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was remembered as an indefatigable crusader for justice and freedom during an official state funeral service in Cape Town on Saturday.

Tutu, who died Sunday at age 90, was praised as a global icon for equality and peace by family, admirers and dignitaries at the service in St George‘s Cathedral.

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“Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings as leaders of the democratic state,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during his eulogy.

“Our departed father was a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world as well,” he added.

Referring to him by his nickname “The Arch,” Ramaphosa said Tutu “bequeathed us many things — the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions, solidarity with the oppressed, delivering on the promises made by the constitution, and many others.”

Beloved by his countrymen as one of the faces in the fight against South Africa’s minority rule and apartheid, Tutu’s body lay in state at the cathedral since Thursday to give mourners an opportunity to pay tribute.

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His remains will be “aquamated,” or cremated by water, and interred at the cathedral, according to Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, the acting chairperson of the Desmond Tutu Intellectual Property Trust.

Also attending the state funeral were Tutu’s widow Leah Nomalizo Tutu, his daughter Nontombi Naomi Tutu, King of Lesotho Letsie III and former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe.

Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said Tutu “lit up the world” in prerecorded remarks presented at the event.

“For myself or any other Archbishop of Canterbury to give a tribute to ‘the’ Archbishop is like a mouse giving a tribute to an elephant,” he said, describing the Tutu and the late President Nelson Mandela as two “towering figures” given to the world by South Africa.

“He never ceased to speak prophetically, he never ceased to speak powerfully,” Welby said of Tutu.

Tutu served as the first Black archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, and as the leader of the Anglican Church in South Africa often celebrated Mass at St George’s Cathedral.

He once led the South African Council of Churches, emphasizing non-violent means of protest throughout anti-apartheid movements in the 1980s and encouraging other countries to introduce economic sanctions against the country unless apartheid was lifted.

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Tutu became chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission when apartheid ended and Mandela became the country’s first Black president.

The intensive public inquiry took testimony from victims of human rights abuses in the then minority-rule government to seek restorative justice.