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Remembering Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: 10 quotes and images of his life

Picture of Desmond Tutu, Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg taken in 1985, when he spoke to the press in Pietermaritzburg after addressing the National initiative for the reconciliation conference. Picture: Laurie Bloomfield/Independent Archives

Picture of Desmond Tutu, Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg taken in 1985, when he spoke to the press in Pietermaritzburg after addressing the National initiative for the reconciliation conference. Picture: Laurie Bloomfield/Independent Archives

Published Dec 26, 2021


Cape Town – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, who was a Nobel Peace Laureate and played a key role-player in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, passed away on Sunday, aged 90.

The Arch, as he was fondly known, has been remembered and his legacy celebrated by many, as they reflect on his life.

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The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in a statement on Sunday said that while Tutu was first and always an Anglican priest, who made no secret of his deep dependence on the inner-life of disciplined prayer, his faith burst the confines of denomination and religion, joyfully embracing all who shared his passion for justice and love.

“With the freeing of Nelson Mandela and other leaders, the unbanning of political movements, the return of the exiles, and South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections to move the country towards healing, then president Nelson Mandela asked Tutu to guide the delicate but often controversial work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“Presiding over months of agonising testimony and horrifying revelations, he became ‘chief pastor’ to South Africa’s painful transition and many who had dismissed him as a ‘rabble-rouser’, were moved by his deeply compassionate response to apartheid’s victims and even those of their torturers who showed remorse.

“While Tutu helped shepherd the democratic dispensation into being, he was unafraid of reminding the new governing party of both its moral responsibilities towards all South Africans, and its growing failings.

“The wider world showered him with honours, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and after retirement his primary international responsibility was with a group of fellow Nobel Peace Laureates and statespersons known as ‘The Elders,’ committed to international problem-solving and peace-making.”

Officially “retiring” from public life on his 79th birthday, Tutu continued to speak out on a range of ethical and moral issues: illegal arms deals, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, respect for the rule of law, HIV/Aids, Tibet, China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and LGBTQI+ rights.

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In memory of Desmond Tutu’s legacy, we’ve compiled 10 pictures and quotes to celebrate the beloved icon:

1. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I’d say sorry. I mean, I’d much rather go to that other place.”

Newly ordained Mpho Tutu kisses her father, Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus, after blessing him at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 17, 2004. Mpho Tutu was ordained as an Anglican priest by her father. She has since been forced to give up her duties as a priest in South Africa’s Anglican church, after she married a woman. Picture: Mannie Garcia/Reuters

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2. “I never doubted that we were going to be free because, ultimately, I knew there was no way in which a lie could prevail over the truth, darkness over light, death over life.”

Spirit of togetherness Archbishop Desmond Tutu shares a light moment with his wife Leah, Graça Machel and Nelson Mandela at his home in Orlando West, Soweto. Picture: Kim Ludbrook/African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

3. “The universe can take quite a while to deliver. God is patient with us to become the God’s children he wants us to be, but you really can see him weeping.”

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On his 85th birthday Archbishop Desmond Tutu attended a service at St George’s Cathedral, followed by a tea where many people wished him a happy birthday. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

4. “Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness,” he once said.

Their love was for all to see. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah, pose for a picture inside their home in Milnerton. Picture: Henk Kruger/African NewsAgency (ANA) Archives

5. “Peace without justice is impossibility.”

Desmond Tutu, left, and Nelson Mandela listen and answer children’s questions on Aids. Picture: ANDREW INGRAM/African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

6. “Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another.”

Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks with actor Will Smith at a lunch to kick off the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on May 1, 2004. Picture: Dave Allocca/Reuters

7. “Equality is essential to human life and well-being.”

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu pays tribute to the late Pope John Paul II in Cape Town on Sunday, April 3, 2005. File Picture: Obed Zilwa/AP

8. “Do your little bits of good where you are, it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Barack Obama, left, speaks to journalists during a courtesy call to the office of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Cape Town on August 21, 2006, when Obama was still a senator. Picture: Howard Burditt/Reuters

9. “The world’s forests are a shared stolen treasure that we must put back for our children’s future.”

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding their son Archie, meet Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his daughter Thandeka, in Cape Town. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

10. “What has happened to us? It seems as if we have perverted our freedom, our rights into license, into being irresponsible. Perhaps we did not realise just how apartheid has damaged us, so that we seem to have lost our sense of right and wrong.”

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Picture: Werner Beukes/African News Agency (ANA)