Archbishop Desmond Tutu died on December 26th after a prolonged battle with cancer at the age of ninety in Cape Town, South Africa. The death of “Arch”, as he was affectionately known in South Africa, has resulted in tributes from Heads of State, Royalty, religious leaders, politicians and activists across the globe.
US president Joe Biden said, “his courage and moral clarity helped inspire our commitment to change American policy toward the repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Among the African leaders, Uhuru Kenyatta said, “Archbishop Tutu inspired a generation of African leaders who embraced his non-violent approaches in the liberation struggle”, while Bobi Wine, the Ugandan opposition leader, said “A giant has fallen. We thank God for his life-a purposeful life, truly lived in the service of humanity.”
Queen Elizabeth II in a message on behalf of the Royal Family said they were deeply saddened by the Archbishop’s passing, describing him as “a man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world.”
A condolence message from the Vatican expressed Pope Francis’ sadness over the death of Archbishop Tutu, while recognizing “his service to the Gospel through the promotion of racial equality and reconciliation in his native South Africa.” The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said, “Desmond Tutu was a prophet and priest, a man of words and action -one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life.”
Former US President Barack Obama joined the chorus of tributes describing the archbishop as “a mentor, a friend and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King’s daughter, Bernice King, said she too was saddened to learn of the death of Archbishop Tutu and referred to him as a “global sage, human rights leader and powerful pilgrim on Earth… we are better because he was here.”
Archbishop Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his nonviolent efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. It is generally acknowledged that his crowning moment arrived when he was asked by South Africa’s first black leader, Nelson Mandela, to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid crimes to bring closure to victims and the nation.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu leaves to mourn his wife Leah of 60 years, their children, Trevor, Theresa, Naomi and Mpho, and sister Gloria.