Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral scheduled for New Year’s Day

As the City of Cape Town readies itself for the late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s state funeral on Saturday, 1 January 2022, the city held an interfaith service in his honour on Wednesday evening at the historic City Hall. 

“For decades, he faithfully worked for a country of justice and mutual respect, even though he could not see it,” recently-elected Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said in his tribute.

“The large part of his ministry was spent under oppression, harried and harassed, as he persevered in his service, and in so doing kept faith and hope alive for South Africa’s future.”

Hill-Lewis spoke of how Tutu was a symbol of love over hate, and that the retired Anglican archbishop stood “for a few simple truths that cut across faith and time and place”. 

He acknowledged Tutu’s stand against injustice, his belief of moral worth in every person, love for one’s neighbours and the importance of treating others as we would want to be treated ourselves. 

“This message of love was wrapped in irrepressible purple energy that could both charm the good and whither the evil with its sheer intensity and good humour. We take inspiration from his life that no matter how far we have come, we still have much work to do”.

“The large part of his ministry was spent under oppression, harried and harassed, as he persevered in his service, and in so doing kept faith and hope alive for South Africa’s future,” Hill-Lewis told attendants to the services. The number of those present was limited due to Covid-19 regulations, but the event was also streamed live.

Also in attendance was Western Cape Premier Alan Winde who directly addressed Tutu’s widow Leah: “We are all here with you to celebrate this wonderful man, the Arch.”

The interfaith service formed part of multiple events leading up to Tutu’s state funeral on Saturday at the St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.  

The cathedral bells have been rung for 10 minutes at midday daily for the past week and will do so until Friday.

Members of the public will be able to view Tutu’s body on Thursday at the cathedral, where it will lie in state until 5pm. A condolence book has been set up outside St George’s Cathedral for members of the public to leave their messages and there is also an online version here.

Reminiscing on the role the St George’s Cathedral played in the life of Tutu, his communication advisor and long-time aid John Allen told the Mail & Guardian how the Archbishop led illegal demonstrations against apartheid from there.

“When the government banned rallies elsewhere, he arranged services in the cathedral at the same time as the banned rallies, and invited the same speakers to the cathedral,” Allen said.

“As a result, among those waging the struggle it was called ‘the people’s cathedral’.”

The Arch, as Tutu was fondly known, will be laid to rest in his former parish on Saturday, at the start of the New Year. Bishop Michael Nuttall will officiate.

The public will be able to watch the funeral service via a live stream provided by the SABC.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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