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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s ashes will be interred in 'the Cathedral he loved' on New Year’s Day

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seen on his 85th birthday, attending a service at St George's Cathedral. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seen on his 85th birthday, attending a service at St George's Cathedral. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency

Published Dec 28, 2021


Cape Town - The ashes of the man who coined the phrase Rainbow Nation, the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, will be interred on New Year’s Day in the Cathedral he loved, St George’s Cathedral.

It is the same church where he was installed as archbishop of Cape Town in 1986.

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The funeral arrangements were announced jointly by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba and dean of St George's, Michael Weeder, on Monday as tributes to the Arch poured in from across South Africa, Africa and the world.

The Arch’s Anglican Requiem Mass will be held in the Cathedral which became known as the “People's Cathedral” in the Struggle years.

The preacher will be Bishop Michael Nuttall, the retired bishop of Natal, who was dean of the Anglican Church when Tutu was archbishop.

The Arch will lie in state in the Cathedral on Friday and the public will be given an opportunity to file past his coffin, which Archbishop Makgoba said would reflect the simplicity with which he asked to be buried.

The remains will then lie overnight in the Cathedral.

Archbishop Makgoba said: “We will accommodate as many people as we can in the hours available. Outside the Cathedral, the City has laid out condolence books and places to leave flowers.”

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He said bells will ring at noon each day at the Cathedral as well as at many other churches across South Africa. In Cape Town, the Angelus prayer, also known as the Hail Mary, will be recited.

The last Archbishop of Cape Town to be interred in the cathedral was Geoffrey Clayton who died in 1957.

Clayton died a day after he had signed a letter on behalf of the bishops of the church to the then prime minister JG Strijdom refusing to obey the Native Laws Amendment Act which sought to force apartheid in all Christian congregations.

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Makgoba said the mass and internment will be the culmination of a week of prayers and services including an inter-faith tribute to the Arch hosted by the City at 6pm tomorrow (Wednesday) at the City Hall.

Among other confirmed services in honour of the Arch include an intimate event by the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town on Thursday evening.

Archbishop Makgoba said the funeral would be held under strict observance of the Covid-19 regulations, which restrict attendance at funerals to a maximum of 100 people.

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“Please attend services in your local communities and parishes. Our lists of possible attendees at the funeral run to 400 or 500 names, and more than 100 clergy.

“Only a fraction of those who want to be there can be accommodated in the cathedral. So please don't get on a bus to Cape Town.”

Among those who sent condolences were President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the family in Milnerton yesterday.

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.

Others included Premier Alan Winde who said: “The Arch has been a shining light for justice, compassion and for kindness, and through his actions inspired me and many others worldwide to have hope that right will prevail over wrong.”

In a letter to Tutu's daughter Mpho Tutu, the Dalai Lama called the Arch his "respected elder spiritual brother and good friend".

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “Archbishop Tutu was a prophet and priest and a man of extraordinary personal courage and bravery: when the police burst into Cape Town Cathedral, he defied them by dancing down the aisle.”

Pope Francis in a telegram said: “He will be remembered for his immense spiritual contribution to the liberation and democracy of South Africa."

Jerusalem Archbishop Atallah Hanna said: “He was a friend of the Palestinians and fought against racism, including in the occupied territories.”

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth said: "I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world."

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Cape Argus