Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Cause of Death Revealed

Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu died at the age of 90 on Christmas. The outspoken clergy member, who spent his life advocating for racial equality, will lie in state at The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 1, before a COVID-19 attendee-restricted requiem mass. 

According to Al Jazeera, the Anglican priest’s ashes will be buried in a mausoleum in the cathedral.

Tutu was born on Oct. 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, located in the North-West province of South Africa. His father, an educator and his mother, a domestic servant, taught him and his siblings to speak five languages as children. After contracting tuberculosis at the age of 14, The Guardian reported, he met his life-long friend and mentor Father Trevor Huddleston, a white British Anglican missionary priest, and opponent of racial segregation. Huddleston helped shape his vision for activism and was his inspiration to enter into ministry.

Tutu walked in his father’s footsteps as a teacher, before entering into the ministry and becoming ordained as a priest in 1961.

In the 1970s, after spending most of his life under South Africa’s system of Apartheid, Tutu entered into the Black Liberation Struggle in his nation and condemned the separatist institution. After working in England and South America in various capacities, his advocacy work put him in the international spotlight. He encouraged others to use their pulpits and resources to fight for racial justice, finding a strong alliance with other faith leaders in his own faith, Roman Catholic and Methodist denominations. 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to white minority rule in his country. While he did not consider himself a politician, he worked with (and challenged) national and international leaders of state to end a practice that he would later call “intrinsically evil.”

He said in a 2007 interview with Sir Nick Sladen, “I’ve never doubted that apartheid — because it was of itself fundamentally, intrinsically evil — was going to bite the dust eventually.”

After his death, many have offered flowers in his memory. South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said in his address to his nation that his death was “the saddest of days.”

“We have lost a person who carried the burden of leadership with compassion, with dignity, with humility, and with such good humor,” he stated in the broadcast before quoting the late Nelson Mandela’s remarks about his comrade and co-laborer in the movement, that also relished in how funny a man he was.

He recalled words from the former president, who died in 2013, that said that Tutu was sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid, and seldom without humor.” 

Ramaphosa acknowledged, “our nation’s loss is indeed a global bereavement.”

Barack Obama, the former president of the United States, took to Twitter and called the archbishop his “mentor,” “friend,” and “a moral compass for me and so many others.” 

President Joe Biden also offered reflections on Tutu’s life. “We were blessed to spend time with him on several occasions over the past many years. His courage and moral clarity helped inspire our commitment to change American policy toward the repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa.”

“We send our deepest condolences to the people of South Africa who are mourning the loss of one of their most important founding fathers,” he concluded in his remarks.

As previously mentioned, Mandela and Tutu were friends. According to Reuters, the two Nobel Peace prize winners and anti-apartheid champions lived on the same street (Vilakazi Street) in Soweto.

Mandela once said of his friend, “His most characteristic quality is his readiness to take unpopular positions without fear. Such independence of mind is vital to a thriving democracy.”

According to Roger Friedman, spokesman for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Intellectual Property Trust, Tutu died from complications from cancer, a disease that he had been fighting for years. In 1997, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Dr. Ramphela Mamphele, who delivered a statement on behalf of his family, added, “He wanted the world to know that he had prostate cancer and that the sooner it is detected the better the chance of managing it.”

Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town, Dec. 25 at the age of 90.

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