South Africa has started a week of mourning for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who died Sunday at the age of 90. Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral will toll its bells every day at noon through Friday in honor of the anti-apartheid hero before a Saturday funeral service.
The bells at St. George’s Cathedral rang out for 10-minutes on Monday. It was here that Archbishop Tutu gave refuge to many during the dark days of apartheid.
His non-violent campaign won him international recognition including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He was also greatly loved by his countrymen and women. Veteran journalist Ayesha Ismail explains.
“You know as a South African and as a journalist when I think about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I think about love, I think about justice, I think about peace and I think about compassion. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the one who opened the doors of this cathedral when we were fighting the apartheid regime during the height of apartheid and during the state of emergency, we were teargassed, we were sjambokked and it was the archbishop who opened these doors for us to come and seek refuge. He will be deeply missed and I think I can safely say that South Africa has lost its moral compass,” said the journalist.
Once democracy was established in South Africa in 1994, Tutu continued to campaign for human rights, championing all kinds of causes around the world.
In recent years, he also spoke out against the African National Congress which is in power in South Africa. He was outraged by the unchecked corruption within the party.
Children and young people were close to his heart. He was a patron of many trusts. The CEO of one of them, Jason Falken, said even when Tutu was ill, the archbishop was in email contact with him so they could work out a plan to ensure funding came in after he passed on.
“Not only for the trust but for our beneficiaries the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital it’s been immense. You know the arch and Ma Leah their many visits to the hospital were always filled with joy and laughter and the kids really look out for that. But over and above that, the arch was also very instrumental, especially in the early years of the trust in raising significant funds specifically for the purpose of much-needed medical equipment which ran into the hundreds of thousands of rand,” he said.
The assistant priest at St. George’s Cathedral, Marcus Slingers, said it was a great privilege to have visited Tutu at his home in Milnerton, a Cape Town suburb, for about 40 minutes each day.
“We are all saddened by this great loss. The dean and I and others, you know in these last few months, had the opportunity of celebrating the eucharist with him every day and that was part of his life and I’ve just been privileged to have been part of it. And what a man of God and humble,” he said.
The archbishop’s 66-year marriage to Leah Tutu was admired by many. They had four children: Trevor, Thandeka, Naomi and Mpho. Father Marcus said on his visits to Tutu, Mrs. Tutu would tell him stories over cups of tea about how they supported each other.
“And how the two of them had just done things together. Everything that they’ve done, they’ve done together and our hearts and our prayers, our thoughts are with her and the rest of the family,” he said.
A number of events are planned for this week, including a memorial service which the South African Council of Churches will host on Wednesday.
Archbishop Tutu’s body will lie in state at St. George’s Cathedral on Friday. His funeral will take place there on Saturday.