One year anniversary Tutu was interred inside St George’s Cathedral

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January 2 marks one year since late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was laid to rest inside the St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

Tutu’s ashes were interred inside the church, during a private ceremony. His body was cremated after the funeral service on New Year’s Day before his ashes were interred on Sunday morning.

The interment was conducted by Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba.

As it marks a year since Tutu’s remains were interred, Makgoba reflects on the interment and the absence of Tutu a year later.

“A year ago, I interred the ashes of Desmond Tutu. It was as if a heavy cloud had descended into the Cathedral after the Christmas message of hope when he died, and when we did the interment of his mortal remains. A year later the family has completed its period of mourning. The cloud is heating up gradually, but of course, Archbishop Emeritus is deeply missed. It was after 6 AM in the morning on that Sunday morning when we did the interment at the Cathedral. I pray that his soul may rest in peace and rise in glory.” says Makgoba.

Tutu spent his last Christmas last year before he died peacefully the following day on a Sunday morning at his home in Cape Town on 26 December 2021, at the age of 90.

The announcement of his passing was made by Makgoba.

Memorial service

The ‘Arch’ as he was affectionately known, was honoured across the world and the country following his passing. The week before his funeral, tributes continued in song, prayers, messages of condolences and speeches at various memorial services.

Among those who honoured him included a group of eminent people called “Friends of Tutu” with former First Lady, Graca Machel who was one of the keynote speakers at the event that was hosted at the old Granary, the building where the Leah and Tutu Foundation is stationed.

State funeral

Prior to his funeral service, Tutu’s body was lying in state for two days at the Cathedral, for public viewing. The Nobel Peace Laureate was honoured with a category 1 state funeral by President Cyril Ramaphosa who delivered the eulogy during Tutu’s funeral service on New Year’s Day.


Tutu’s long-time friend preaches at the funeral 

The late Archbishop’s long-time friend, who was the Dean of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa when Tutu was still Archbishop, delivered the sermon at the funeral. Michael Nuttal, a retired Bishop of Natal was appointed Dean by Tutu when the Arch was still the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Cape Town. In one of his reflections, Nuttal pointed out how Tutu’s response to injustices was in his human nature

“Desmond was not on some crusade of personal aggrandisement or egotism, though he often and disarmingly admitted that he loved to be loved, and what is wrong with that? Do we not all love to be loved? It is a human craving from the moment we are born. But no: Desmond’s response to grave injustice came from the depths of his being and often in response to what he called the divine nudge.” adds Nuttal.

Dalai Lama’s tribute 

Tibetan Spiritual Leader, the 14th Dalai Lama who was Tutu’s best friend could not attend his funeral service due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place across the world but had sent a representative.

Tutu’s legacy

On 7 October 2022, it was the first time that Tutu, a climate justice activist, was absent from celebrating his birthday and not be part of witnessing his annual peace lecture. He would have turned 91. The 12th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture hosted by the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation was held at the Cape Town City Hall last year. The theme for the 12th Peace Lecture was “A vision for Hope and Healing”. The two main speakers at the lecture were United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Author Doug Abrams.