Social Issues

People gather across South Africa to honor Desmond Tutu

Johannesburg, Dec 29 (EFE).- South Africans took part Wednesday in religious rites and vigils to bid farewell to Nobel Peace Prize-winning Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who died the day after Christmas at the age of 90.

Cape Town city hall served as venue for an interfaith memorial service for the man who was affectionately known as “the Arch.”

“The family is so grateful for the outpouring of love and support. We feel that this makes the pain of separation much easier but it also reflects the man we are celebrating today,” Dr. Mamphela Ramphele said on behalf of the family and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

Ramphele, who was the life partner of martyred Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko and a colleague of Tutu in the anti-apartheid movement, said that “the Arch’s greatest gift was to teach us by example.”

Here in Johannesburg, public officials and other dignitaries joined citizens for a candlelight vigil outside Tutu’s former home on Soweto’s Vilakazi Street.

“It is Archbishop Tutu that coined the phrase rainbow nation depicting who we are as a nation. South Africa is a rich melting pot of different races, culture, religious diversity,” Mayor Mpho Phalatse said, recalling that Vilakazi was once home to both Tutu and fellow Nobel Peace laureate Nelson Mandela.

Tutu will lie in state for two days at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town before Saturday’s funeral.

He is to be cremated after the service and his ashes will be placed beneath the floor at the cathedral where he presided as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town from 1986-1996.

Tutu received the Nobel Prize in 1984 in recognition of his role in the struggle against the racist apartheid system and under President Mandela, he led a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that gave victims a chance to be heard and perpetrators an opportunity to avoid prosecution if they confesses to their crimes.

In his later years, Tutu showed himself willing to clash with the Anglican hierarchy over his support for LGBT rights and euthanasia. EFE

ngp/dr

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