Take a look at the beta version of dw.com. We're not done yet! Your opinion can help us make it better.
A modest requiem Mass for Archbishop Desmond Tutu took place at Cape Town's Anglican cathedral. The anti-apartheid hero died aged 90 on December 26.
South African anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu was laid to rest on Saturday at a state funeral in Cape Town's St. George's Cathedral.
His remains will now undergo a process called aquamation, a flameless cremation process that uses water to break down the body until the bones remain and are turned to dust. When the process is complete, his remains will be also be buried at St. George's.
The funeral started with a hymn and a procession of clerics down the aisle burning incense and carrying candles inside the church where, for years, Tutu used the pulpit to fight against the country's white minority regime.
South Africa marked a week of mourning following Tutu's death on December 26. He was aged 90.
"When we were in the dark, he brought light,'' Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the worldwide Anglican church, said in a video message shown at the funeral Mass.
"For me to praise him is like a mouse giving tribute to an elephant,'' Welby said. "South Africa has given us extraordinary examples of towering leaders of the rainbow nation with President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.... Many Nobel winners' lights have grown dimmer over time, but Archbishop Tutu's has grown brighter.''
In his eulogy, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called Tutu "a crusader in the struggle for freedom and justice around the world."
DW's Thuso Kumalo said outside St. George's, "The majority of South Africans were not allowed to come and gather here. Under normal circumstances you would have thousands of people gathering," but this was not possible due to the pandemic.
"He left this nation in a better position from what it was because he left Blacks and whites living in peace ever more," Kumalo said.
Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town, his trust said. He was hospitalized several times since 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.
Several thousand people on Saturday, some of whom had traveled across the country, filed past the rope-handled casket made of pine, adorned with a bunch of carnations.
Renowned for his modesty, the archbishop requested "no lavish spending" on his funeral and he even "asked that the coffin be the cheapest available," his foundation said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the eulogy at the state funeral and handed South Africa's multicoloured flag to Tutu's widow, Leah, as a symbol of her husband's description of the post-apartheid country as the "Rainbow Nation."
Tutu's death represents a huge loss for South Africa, where many called him "Tata," meaning father.
Born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, Tutu became a teacher before entering St. Peter’s Theological College in Rosetenville in 1958. He was ordained in 1961.
In 1985, Tutu became the first Black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg. A year later, he was named the first Black archbishop of Cape Town.
Throughout the 1980s, when South Africa was marred by apartheid violence, Tutu was one of the most prominent Black leaders to speak out against abuses committed by the white regime.
He was a powerful force for nonviolence in the the country's anti-apartheid movement, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
Tutu also campaigned internationally for human rights, particularly LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage.
"I would not worship a God who is homophobic," he said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBTQ rights in Cape Town. "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, 'Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.'"
ar, mvb/rc (AFP, AP)