The body of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu who died on Sunday at the age of 90 on Thursday arrived St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town where it will lie in state for two days.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero’s official state funeral will be held on January 1 after the lying-in-state period, allowing mourners to file past his body and say their final goodbyes.
Priests burnt incense as Tutu’s simple wooden coffin was carried into the cathedral where the anti-apartheid hero preached against racial injustice. Tutu requested the cheapest coffin available and did not want any lavish funeral expense, his foundation said.
It will be a simple funeral in line with his wishes, the foundation added.
The lying in state period had to be extended to two days, “for fear there might be a stampede,” a local priest said.
The public will view his body between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, ahead of a requiem mass funeral service on Saturday where President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to deliver a eulogy.
Memorial services were also planned for Tutu in Johannesburg and Pretoria on Thursday, while an intimate night of remembrance with his close friends will take place later.
After Saturday’s funeral, Tutu’s remains will be cremated and his ashes then placed in the cathedral, where he preached for many years.
The much-revered churchman was a driving force in the struggle to abolish the apartheid system enforced by the white minority government against the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1991.
He got to witness the end of that regime and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to unearth the atrocities committed under it.