South Africans took their last opportunity to pay their respects to Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday, the eve of the revered anti-apartheid fighter’s funeral.
Since Thursday, nearly 3,000 mourners have filed through Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral before the simple pine casket containing Tutu’s remains.
Members of Tutu’s family hugged and consoled each other as the coffin returned for the second and final day to lie in state while a band, which included a preschooler trumpeter, played in his honor.
The archbishop’s successor, Thabo Makgoba, waved a chalice of burning incense over the coffin before pallbearers, Anglican vicars, took the coffin from a silver Mercedes SUV hearse.
They slowly walked up the stairs into the cathedral where Tutu had preached for a decade.
The body will spend the night in the cathedral until the funeral, which will be presided over by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Tutu died peacefully Sunday at age 90.
Tutu had carefully set down details for his funeral, insisting that his coffin be “the cheapest” available, and that it be adorned by a simple bunch of carnations.
Mourners are being asked to donate money to his charitable foundations instead of sending flowers, and even the disposal of his remains is being conducted in an eco-friendly way.
The dean of the cathedral, Michael Weeder, told AFP that Tutu had asked for “aquamation,” a process that supporters say releases one-tenth of climate-altering carbon dioxide gases compared with traditional cremation.
In aquamation, bodies are dissolved in a heated solution of water and alkali in a stainless steel vessel, leaving behind the bones, which are then turned to ash by cremation.
The ashes are to be interred at the cathedral.
The burial “might be Sunday,” Weeder said in a text message, adding the “family will decide whether it will be private or open to others.”
Libane Serenji, an artist from Johannesburg, came to pay respects. He painted portraits of Tutu on a canvas and attached them to a tree outside the cathedral.
He said it was fitting “to come all the way and paint … because he played also a significant role in my life like everyone from Africa.”
Another mourner, Antonia Appels, had come from the capital, Pretoria, to stand in line.
Tutu was a “moral compass” who had helped haul country out of the darkness of the apartheid era, she said.
South Africa is marking a week of mourning for Tutu, with the country’s multicolored flag flying at half-staff nationwide and ceremonies taking place every day.
The cathedral’s bells have been pealing in his memory for 10 minutes at midday.
Tutu was for years the emblem of the struggle to end white-minority rule as Nelson Mandela and other leaders languished behind bars.
After apartheid was dismantled and South Africa ushered in its first free elections in 1994, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which exposed the horrors of the past in terrible detail.
He would later speak out fearlessly against the ruling African National Congress (ANC) for corruption, incompetence and failures to tackle the country’s AIDS epidemic.
Weakened by advanced age and prostate cancer, Tutu had retired from public life in recent years.
He is survived by his wife, Leah; four children; and several grand and great-grandchildren.