by Festus Tarawalie – Vatican City.
The Nobel-peace prize laureate and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, passed away on Sunday at the age of 90.
A contemporary of late president Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu was one of the driving forces behind the movement to end the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced in South Africa for over 40 years until 1991. After coming to power in the early ’90s, President Mandela appointed him to head the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to investigate crimes committed during the apartheid era.
President Ramaphosa’s tribute
In his tribute, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa. Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.”
Prophet, priest, a man of action
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in his tribute that, “Archbishop 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. Even in our profound sorrow we give thanks for a life so well lived. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Message of the World Council of Churches
The WCC also issued a statement saying, “Desmond Mpilo Tutu was a unique character. His contagious sense of humour and laughter has helped to resolve many critical situations in South Africa’s political and church life. He was able to break almost any deadlock. He shared with us the laughter and grace of God many a time.”
As a high-profile black church leader, Archbishop Tutu joined the struggle against white-minority rule but always insisted his motives were religious, not political. He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1984 for his role in the struggle to abolish the apartheid system. He also received the Templeton Prize for his “life-long work in advancing spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness.”
Pope Francis: Tutu was an inspiration
Pope Francis in the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti credits Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others, as an inspiration for his encyclical (see paragraph 286). Tutu was always a firm believer in the African philosophy of Ubuntu based on a culture of sharing, openness, mutual dependence, dialogue, and interpersonal encounter.