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South Africa: President Ramaphosa Says Tutu Was Nation’s Spiritual Father

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South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu as a rare soul who enriched the lives of those he met and fought for.

President Ramaphosa was delivering the eulogy at the elderly clergyman and global icon’s funeral held at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

Tutu passed away last Sunday following a period of illness.

“It is only the few among us, the rarest of souls, who attain the stature of global icon during their lifetime. In our modern age, this term has come to be associated with celebrity and social media fame.

“Yet if we are to understand a global icon to be someone of great moral stature, of exceptional qualities and of service to humanity, there can be no doubt that it refers to the man we are laying to rest today,” the President said.

Throughout his life, Tutu became known not just as a clergyman but also as a human rights campaigner, who bravely took on the racist apartheid government.

“He was a man with a faith as deep as it was abiding. For him, opposing injustice, standing up for the oppressed, defying unjust laws, was God’s work. Our departed father was a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in South Africa, the country of his birth, but around the world as well,” President Ramaphosa said.

He said Tutu’s impact and influence on the entire world was so immense that tributes and condolences have poured in from all parts of the globe.

“Climate activists, LGBTQI+ groups, solidarity movements and community organisations are just some of those who have paid homage to a man who gave his life to the cause of freedom. A humble and brave human being who spoke up for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the suffering.

“How fitting is it that his parents named him Mpilo, meaning life. In his life, he enriched the lives of all he met and all those who got to know him,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa reflected that Tutu’s empathy and humanity was extended to all those who faced persecution, exclusion and discrimination.

“He was there, with the freedom fighters, confronting the [apartheid] regime and comforting its victims. He was not content to preach about social justice from the pulpit. 

“He was with the homeless, the helpless, the persecuted, the sick and the destitute in the streets, in shelters and in homes. He embraced all who had ever felt the cold wind of exclusion and they in turn embraced him.”

The President called on South Africans to honour Tutu’s legacy by emulating his acts of humanitarianism.

“The most fitting tribute we can pay to him, whoever and wherever we are, is to take up the cause of social justice for which he tirelessly campaigned. Archbishop Tutu has left a formidable legacy and we are enormously diminished by his passing.

“Though we say goodbye to him today with the heaviest of hearts, we salute our beloved Archbishop for all he did to help build this nation. His was a life lived honestly and completely.

“He has left the world a better place. We remember him with a smile… the type of smile he would have flashed around,” the President said.

At the funeral, Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, thanked the mourners and those who have sent condolences from around the globe.

“I am standing to convey our family thanks for the many ways in which all of you have stepped forward to tell us of how much you loved daddy. We have received so many messages on all kinds of media and we haven’t been able to respond to all… that we have received.

“Daddy would say the love the world has shown has warmed the cockles of our hearts. We thank you for loving our father, grandfather, husband, uncle, brother, brother-in-law. To him… we say thank you for the many ways you showed us loved, for the many times you challenged us [and] for the many times you comforted us,” she said. 

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