South Africa begins a week of mourning for Desmond Tutu
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The bells of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town rang on Monday as South Africans began a week of mourning for Desmond M. Tutu, Cape Town’s first black archbishop, who died Sunday at the age of 90.
The cleric was one of the most powerful voices in the anti-apartheid movement and has remained a voice of moral conscience in the decades following the collapse of South Africa’s system of institutionalized segregation. His death sparked a wave of tributes in South Africa and around the world.
The bells of Archbishop Tutu’s former church will ring for 10 minutes at noon every day this week, until his funeral on January 1 at the same cathedral. The service will be limited to 100 people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The archbishop’s remains will be cremated and his ashes interred in St. George’s Cathedral, church leaders said. As the first black Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996 and head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Archbishop Tutu celebrated mass in the same cathedral.
Until his funeral, flags across the country will fly at half mast, the South African president said. Table Mountain, a Cape Town landmark, will be illuminated in purple, reminiscent of the purple robe Archbishop Tutu wore as head of the Anglican Church in South Africa.
In keeping with Archbishop Tutu’s wishes, the church will lead the planning of the events surrounding his funeral. Throughout the week, several churches across South Africa and in neighboring countries will hold memorial services, both Christian and interfaith, in his honor.
The Nobel Prize winner will rest in St. George’s Cathedral on Friday, where the public will be allowed to pay homage to him.
Archbishop Tutu’s funeral will not be exempt from the Covid-19 regulations currently in force in South Africa. Public viewing will be regulated by social distancing rules, in addition to limited attendance at the funeral mass, where family members and clerics will have priority over the small guest list, executives said. church during a press briefing Monday.
Coronavirus cases have increased exponentially in the country after the detection of the Omicron variant in southern Africa in November. Fortunately, hospitalization and death rates from Covid-19 have not kept pace and cases appear to have peaked in the epidemic’s epicenter, Gauteng province.
“Please don’t get on a bus to Cape Town,” said Thabo Makgoba, the current archbishop. “We will need to be pastoral and firm and encourage people to look from home.”
The man affectionately known to South Africans as “L’Arche” died of cancer in a healthcare facility in Cape Town. He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and was hospitalized several times in the years that followed, amid recurring fears the disease had spread.
In what would be his last Eucharist on Christmas Day, Archbishop Tutu was frail but grateful, said Archbishop Makgoba, who performed the service.
The Tutu family and close friends will be holding a private service on Thursday evening.
“Auntie has been very fragile and has been in pain for many, many months,” said Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a former anti-apartheid activist who spoke on behalf of the family, using the word Xhosa for father, “and thus the sentiment overwhelming is relief that he went to his creator and his ancestors, and they love him too much to have wanted to continue to see him suffer.
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