A Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ
Archbishop of Cape Town
Nobel Laureate for Peace 1984
7 October 1931–26 December 2021


“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

 

South Africa’s ‘spiritual father’ was born in in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father
was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School.
After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College
and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as
a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in
1960.

Desmond Tutu studied theology at King’s College London in the 1960s and was a
Fellow of the College. He completed both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree,
graduating from the latter in 1966. He served as a curate at St Alban the Martyr,
Golders Green and at St Mary’s, Bletchingley in Surrey (which has a tribute on their
website St Marys Church Bletchingley (bletchingleyparishchurch.org.uk)). He then went to
teach theology in South Africa before returning to England in 1972 as the Assistant
Director of a Theological Institute in London.

In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, the first
black man to hold that position. From 1976-1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and
from 1978-1985 he was first black General Secretary of the South African Council
of Churches.

Desmond Tutu emerged as one of the most prominent opponents of South Africa’s
apartheid system of racial segregation and white minority rule. Although warning
the then National Party government that anger at apartheid would lead to racial
violence, as an activist he stressed non-violent protest and foreign economic
pressure to bring about universal suffrage.

In 1985, Desmond Tutu became Bishop of Johannesburg and in 1986 the Archbishop
of Cape Town, the most senior position in southern Africa's Anglican hierarchy. He
emphasised a consensus-building model of leadership and oversaw the introduction
of female priests. The same year, he became president of the All Africa
Conference of Churches.

After President de Klerk (who died in November 2021) released Nelson Mandela
(1918-2013) from prison in 1990 and the pair led negotiations to end apartheid and
introduce multi-racial democracy, Desmond Tutu assisted as a mediator between
rival black factions. After the 1994 general election resulted in a coalition
government headed by Mandela, he was selected to chair the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (1996-2003) to investigate past human rights abuses
committed by both pro- and anti-apartheid groups. Following apartheid’s fall, he
campaigned for gay rights and spoke out on a wide range of subjects, among them
his support of Palestinians in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict (alongside his
simultaneous belief in Israel’s right to exist), his opposition to the Iraq War, and his
criticism of later South African presidents Mbeki and Zuma.

In 2010, Desmond Tutu retired from public life so that he could spend more time
“at home with my family – reading and writing and praying and thinking”. He was
married for some 66 years and had four children. He died of cancer.

A Requiem Mass was held at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town on New Year’s
Day. South African President Ramaphosa gave a eulogy, and Michael Nuttall, the
former bishop of Natal, delivered the sermon. During the funeral, his body lay in a
“plain pine coffin, the cheapest available at his request to avoid any ostentatious
displays”. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

 

Links and further information:

The BBC has a host of ‘In Memorium’ videos on the following link:
BBC – Search results for Desmond Tutu Remembered

CNN has a host of ‘In Memorium’ videos on the following link:
Search CNN – Videos, Pictures, and News – CNN.com

The Church Times has a fine online obituary (but you may need to subscribe to read it):
Obituary: The Most Revd Desmond Tutu (churchtimes.co.uk)

The Guardian has a fine online obituary (can be read without subscription):
Anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies aged 90 | Desmond Tutu | The Guardian

Thinking Anglicans has a host of links on its home page (@ 4 January 2022) about his life

Waterstones have many of his written works in stock for those who might wish to read more about
him: Search Books | Waterstones

Article Sources:

Main
Nobel Lectures, Peace 1981-1990, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World
Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

 

Supplementary
BBC
CNN
The Guardian
I stock (royalty-free image of Desmond Tutu)
Kings College London Alumni
Newsweek
St Mary’s Bletchingley
Thinking Anglicans