South Africa Begins Week of Mourning for Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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South Africa has declared a week of mourning for Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who passed away in Cape Town on Sunday.

He was 90 and had battled cancer for several years. Tutu was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.

The bells of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town rang out on Monday to mark the beginning of the week of tributes.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed his death.

“In the days to come, we will mourn this global icon of peace and freedom,” he said in a national address. “We will recount his achievements, we will recall his teachings and we will cherish fond memories of this man who always tempered criticism with compassion.”

Tutu was one of the leading figures in the fight to end South Africa’s decades-long apartheid.

“Apartheid’s most blasphemous aspect is … that it can make a child of God doubt that he is a child of God. For that reason alone, it deserves to be condemned as a heresy,” the beloved Bishop wrote.

When Nelson Mandela became president, Tutu was named chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was also one of the world’s most prominent religious leaders to advocate for LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage—the latter became legal in South Africa in 2006.

Shortly after the apartheid ended, Tutu wrote: “If the church, after the victory over apartheid, is looking for a worthy moral crusade, then this is it: the fight against homophobia and heterosexism.”

He continued to fight for LGBTQ+ rights until the very end.

 ”A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world,” Ramaphosa said.

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