South Africa's Desmond Tutu to lie in state until New Year's Day funeral

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  • Desmond Tutu
    Desmond Tutu
    South African churchman, politician, archbishop, Nobel Prize winner (1931–2021)

The body of South Africa's revered anti-apartheid fighter Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died at the weekend aged 90, will lie in state for two days ahead of his funeral on New Year's Day, his foundations have announced.

The lying in state was initially scheduled to last just one day – Friday – but has been extended to Thursday "to accommodate more mourners," the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust and Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said on Tuesday.

The statement expressed deep thanks for the outpouring of support expressed around the world after Tutu passed away.

"This deluge of love serves to compensate, to some extent, for Covid regulations restricting the size of gatherings and the nature of the send-off our beloved Arch so richly deserves," the foundations said, referring to Tutu's nickname.

Tutu's body will lie in St. George's Cathedral, in his former Cape Town parish. His body will be cremated after the funeral and his ashes then placed in the cathedral.

Attendance at his farewell on Saturday has to be capped at 100 because of anti-coronavirus restrictions, the archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said.

Within South Africa, many deeply mourn the passing of the last great hero of the anti-apartheid struggle.

For years, Tutu was the visible emblem of the fight against white-minority rule while Nelson Mandela and other leaders were behind bars.

His hallmarks were religious faith, unfailing humour and an unstinting will to speak out against injustice – both before and after apartheid. He also had a long history of fighting for LGBT+ rights.

No frills funeral

The foundations said that Tutu "was very clear on his wishes for his funeral", outlining he "wanted no ostentatiousness or lavish spending".

"He asked that the coffin be the cheapest available, and that a bouquet of carnations from his family be the only flowers in the cathedral."

He also asked that those who wanted to buy flowers send the equivalent amount in money to the two foundations instead.

South Africa's national flag has been placed at half-mast since Monday, while Cape Town city hall and the famous Table Mountain have been illuminated in purple – the colour of Tutu's gown.

Since Monday, the bells of Cape Town cathedral have tolled for 10 minutes at noon to start what the church hopes will be a moment of reflexion on Tutu's deeds by those who hear the sound.

Religious services are being held around the country in his honour.

Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and repeatedly underwent treatment. He officially retired in 2010, aged 79.

He had been weak for several months and died peacefully on Sunday morning.

(with AFP)

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