In South Africa, a requiem mass and a final tribute to Desmond Tutu

The requiem mass for Desmond Tutu, in the Anglican cathedral in Cape Town, where he preached against the racist apartheid regime, allowed, Saturday 1is January, to those close to him and to South Africa to pay a final tribute to the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Under a heavy sky and a fine drizzle, family and friends, priests and dignitaries, dribbled into the church for a ceremony that Tutu, who died on December 26 at the age of 90, wanted to be simple and uncluttered and whose texts and speakers he had chosen.

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“Daddy would say the love the whole world has shown us warms our hearts (…). We thank you for having loved it so much »her daughter, Mpho Andrea, told the audience. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was to deliver the eulogy after Communion and hand Desmond Tutu’s widow, “Mama Leah” as South Africans fondly call her, a national flag.

The light pine coffin rested the previous two days in Saint George’s Cathedral, to allow thousands of people to come to honor the memory of the archbishop’s battles and enthusiasm. Desmond Tutu had asked “The cheapest possible”. No gold handles, but simple pieces of rope to be able to carry it. Above, a bouquet of white carnations, the only flowers arranged in the church according to the wishes of the deceased.

“A taste of what our country could be”

A close and longtime friend, former Bishop Michael Nuttall, was chosen to deliver the sermon. Their link “No doubt struck a chord in the hearts and minds of many: a dynamic black leader and his white deputy in the last years of apartheid was no small feat. And the sky did not collapse! “, he said from the altar. “We were a taste of what our divided country could be. “

Members of the South African clergy at Requiem Mass for Desmond Tutu, in Cape Town Cathedral, Saturday January 1, 2022.

He also recalled that Nelson Mandela referred to Tutu as “Voice of the voiceless”, a voice “Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and rarely devoid of humor”. The former president of Ireland Mary Robinson was to participate in the reading of the universal prayer, in the presence of Letsie III, the king of Lesotho, a neighboring country, or even Ngodup Dorjee, a representative of the Dalai Lama with whom Desmond Tutu has exchanged memorable laughs: “Their friendship was unique”, he told Agence France-Presse. “As soon as they met, they laughed. The only explanation for this is a karmic connection in the past ”, he added very seriously.

The week was peppered with tributes to Desmond Tutu across the country and beyond. South Africans remembered his tenacity in the face of the oppressive Pretoria regime. In Soweto, where he preached for a long time, he denounced the violence against high school students during the riots of June 1976, repressed in blood. Little by little, he becomes the voice of Nelson Mandela, locked up on Robben Island. The police and the army threaten him. Only her dress then saved her from prison.

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In demonstrations, “He served us as a shield”, remembered Panyaza Lesufi, now a member of the ANC, the African National Congress, a historic party still in power. “He stood resolutely and fearlessly, in front of the demonstrations, his clerical robe floating in the wind, his cross like a shield.”, described Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel.

For his funeral, Desmond Tutu chose, in his last message to men, the passage from the Gospel according to Saint John where Jesus addresses his disciples after their last meal. A message of love: “My commandment is this: Love one another as I have loved you. “

The World with AFP