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South Africa holds modest state funeral for 'spiritual father' Tutu

A general view of the state funeral of late Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, January 1, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

South Africa on Saturday held a state funeral for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the last great hero of the struggle against apartheid, that was stripped of pomp but rich in glowing tributes.

Tutu died last Sunday, aged 90, triggering grief at home and abroad for a life spent fighting injustice.

Famous for his modesty, Tutu gave instructions for a simple, no-frills ceremony, with a cheap coffin, followed by an eco-friendly cremation. 

Family, friends, clergy and politicians gathered at Cape Town's St. George's Anglican Cathedral, which was illuminated in purple, the color of his clerical robes. It was there where Tutu used the pulpit to rail against a brutal white-minority regime and it's there he will be buried.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who accorded Tutu the official funeral usually reserved for presidents, described the ceremony as a "category-one funeral with religious characteristic."

"Our departed father was a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in South Africa, but around the world as well," said Ramaphosa.

"While our beloved (Nelson Mandela) was the father of our democracy, Archbishop Tutu was the spiritual father of our new nation", lauding him as "our moral compass and national conscience".

'Life lived completely'

"His was a life lived honestly and completely. He has left the world a better place. We remember him with a smile," said Ramaphosa before handing South Africa's multicolored flag to the "chief mourner", Tutu's widow, Leah.

The flag, a reminder of Tutu's description of the post-apartheid country as the "Rainbow Nation", was the only military rite accorded to him, respecting his request before he died that military protocol be minimal.

The funeral ended South Africa's week of mourning, with the diminutive rope-handled pinewood coffin, adorned by a small bunch of carnations, immediately removed from the church by vicars in cream robes. 

(Source: AFP) 


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