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Desmond Tutu turns 90 with outpouring of love from South Africa and the world

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(Photo: © Peter Kenny / Ecumenical News)The former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, making a speech in Cape Town on October 8, 2008.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s most famous persons, turned 90 with a Eucharist service celebration at Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral on Oct. 7, getting an outpouring of love from around the world.

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Tutu made a rare public appearance at the iconic Cape Town cathedral to attend a special thanksgiving service.

The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who won the award for his role against apartheid arrived in a wheelchair with his wife, Nomalizo Leah Tutu.

Also, among the family members present at the event were two of the couple’s daughters, Rev. Mpho Andrea Tutu van Furth and Naomi Nontombi Tutu, the Daily Maverick reported.

It was an intimate midday service, with limited attendance due to COVID-19 regulations, and began with the Happy Birthday sung by the assembly.

Although frail and unable to stand up from his wheelchair, Tutu applauded reverently in the front row.

STRUGGLING WITH HEALTH

In recent years, the archbishop has struggled with ill health, which has primarily played a part in his decision to bow out from a packed public life.

The intimate midday service was restricted in attendance because of Covid-19 regulations, which began with Happy Birthday sung by the assembly.

Tutu was frail and unable to stand up from his wheelchair but applauded reverently in the front row.

Ill health has afflicted Tutu in recent years, forcing him to largely bow out from public life after an earlier life of activism.

One of Tutu’s fellow anti-apartheid activists. Allan Boesak led the service, noting him as his “friend and brother,” saying that the archbishop, despite “seeing it all… has always given us hope.”

“Your leadership of the South African Council of Churches was a wake-up call to the church, as it was an alarm bell ringing for the apartheid regime.

“After the vicious repressions of the 1960s, after the Sharpeville massacre, they thought they had silenced the church, but God had other plans, and you came, and you woke up the church, you shook the church up,” said Boesak.

“You told them this government is evil, and this government will very soon bite the dust. You did all that, Desmond Tutu; not because you were strong; not because you were powerful; not because you were arrogant, but because you knew the footsteps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord.”

After the service, Tutu’s daughter Mpho said she was “incredibly grateful” to spend the day with her father on his 90th birthday.

“We’re so incredibly grateful for the love and the prayerful support that my father has had for his life, his work, his ministry. He couldn’t have done all he had without the love, support, and prayers of so many people.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for my father’s life [and] the work he has done in the world. It has made a real difference in many lives, and I am incredibly grateful.”

Tutu van Furth described the mood as “celebratory” and added that several family members had travelled to be with the archbishop on his birthday.

“It is wonderful. We have family members travelling from near and far to be with him. It’s not every day that you get to turn 90 years old and so that is an incredible blessing for us to be able to celebrate and enjoy the day with my parents,” she said.

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