South Africans began to say goodbye this Thursday of Desmond Tutu in a burning chapel with his remains in the Cathedral of St. George in Cape Town, the place from where the archbishop fought for years against apartheid.
The simple pine coffin– “The cheapest possible”, he had asked for. Tutu, decorated with white carnations, arrived early at his old parish on the shoulders of six Anglican priests, AFP journalists indicated, and will remain there for two days before the funeral scheduled for Saturday.
Just before the coffin entered the cathedral, the current Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, delivered a prayer while others threw incense. Then the tireless human rights defender’s widow, affectionately nicknamed “Mama Leah,” walked slowly behind him into the church.
The current Archbishop of Cape Town, Monsignor Thabo Makgoba, delivered a prayer. Photo: EFE
Since his death on Sunday at the age of 90, world figures such as Pope Francis, his friend the Dalai Lama or heads of state paid tribute to Desmond Tutu, and now it is the turn of South Africans, who see themselves as orphans of a reference.
“We have come to pay tribute to him,” said Joan Coulson, who, with her sister, arrived very early in the morning to be among the first to enter the cathedral. “I met him when I was 15 years oldI’m 70 now, “he says, comparing Tutu to a rock star,” like Elvis. “
After a private cremation, his ashes will be interred in the old parish of the archbishop, where since Monday the bells ring every noon for ten minutes in his memory.
A woman gets emotional after saying goodbye to the late Desmond Tutu. Photo: AP
Since Sunday, hundreds of South Africans have flocked to the cathedral, where a register was set up to leave messages and bouquets of flowers.
The country has decreed seven days of mourning And all the flags fly at half mast In Cape Town, the iconic Table Mountain lights up in purple every night in tribute to the archbishop, who used to wear the purple cassock.
The week has also been marked by numerous ceremonies, mainly religious throughout the country.
Religious ceremony, Saturday
There will be no flashy ceremony or lavish spending on Saturday, as Tutu left strict instructions about it. The only bouquet of flowers will be the one offered by the family and assistance will be limited to a hundred people, as a result of the pandemic.
Long lines to say goodbye to the archbishop. Photo: AP
The religious ceremony will also be an official ceremony. By request of Tutu, the military will limit their intervention to the delivery of a South African flag to his widow Leah, whom he married in 1955 and had four children.
The Nobel Peace Prize 1984 he had retired from public life in recent months, weakened by advanced age and cancer.
Desmond Tutu got his notoriety in the darkest hours apartheid, when he led peaceful marches against segregation and to advocate for sanctions against Pretoria’s white supremacy regime.
Unlike other militants of his time, his habits saved him from being imprisoned.
After the arrival of democracy in 1994 and the election of his friend Nelson Mandela as president, Desmond Tutu, which gave South Africa the nickname of “Rainbow Nation”, he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), created with the hope of turning the page on racial hatred.