Desmond Tutu 2006

Rev. Dr Makgoba wrote: While we mourn his passing, as Christians and people of faith we must also celebrate the life of a deeply spiritual person whose alpha and omega – his starting point and his ending point – was his relationship with our Creator. He took God, God's purpose and God's creation deadly seriously. Prayer, the scriptures and his ministry to the people God entrusted to his care were at the heart of his life.

He believed totally that each one of us is made in the image of God and ought to be treated as such by others. This belief was not reached through celebral contemplation; it arose from his faith and was held with a deeply-felt passion. He wanted every human being on earth to experience the freedom, the peace and the joy that all of us could enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.”

A torrent of messages of condolence and goodwill followed from world leaders and church leaders. Below are some of the comments of church and religious leaders and groups from around the world.

World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said Archbishop Tutu was a stalwart contributor to the ecumenical movement during joyful times and times of great challenge and taught us all the value of persistence. We thank God for giving us Archbishop Tutu for 90  years, Through his life and works he has become an image of dignity and freedom for all human beings and  inspired many to use their gifts and talents in the service of others and the mission and prophetic task of the church.”

 Rev. Frank Chikane, moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, who was with Tutu in the struggle against apartheid said: “In Archbishop Desmond Tutu we have lost a great prophet of God who lived among us and stood for justice – the justice of God for all – here in South Africa, on the African continent, and throughout the world, including standing against injustices committed against Palestinians in Israel-Palestine, where others would not dare to. We thank God for his prophetic witness which is worth celebrating nationally and internationally.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “The death of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (always known as Arch) is news that we receive with profound sadness – but also with profound gratitude as we reflect upon his life. Archs love transformed the lives of politicians and priests, township dwellers and world leaders. The world is different because of this man. Archbishop Tutu was a prophet and priest, a man of words and action, one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life. He was a man of extraordinary personal courage and bravery: when the police burst into Cape Town Cathedral, he defied them by dancing down the aisle.”

 Rev. Anne Burghardt, general secretary of The Lutheran World Federation tweeted: LWF celebrates the life and ministry of Desmond Tutu. His life was a testament to how our Christian faith can inspire us to work for justice and human dignity. He taught us what it means to truly advocate and work for reconciliation.”

 The Southern Africa Catholic BishopsConference wrote on its website: Rest in Peace Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The Archbishop will be remembered for his immense spiritual contribution to the liberation and democracy of South Africa, the reason for which he was a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize. His quest for justice continued when he was the Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and beyond.”

From Rome Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on behalf of Pope Francis sent the following message of condolences through the Apostolic Nuncio in South Africa, Archbishop Peter Wells: His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and he offers heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. Mindful of his service to the Gospel through the promotion of racial equality and reconciliation in his native South Africa, his holiness commends his soul to the loving mercy of almighty God. upon all who mourn his passing in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.”

Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, tweeted: He represented what it means to be church in the public sphere. Faithful to the Gospel, Factual, Forthright, Fearless, Fair and Funny at the same time. Rest in Peace Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”

 Former WCC general secretary and Church of Norway primate, Most Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, tweeted, We thank God for Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He led his people in their struggle for freedom, justice and reconciliation. He gave the Church and the world at large the best possible challenge and inspiration to work together for Gods plan for unity, justice and peace. He was a great leader of the One ecumenical movement, serving the One Church, the One Humanity, and the One Creation of God. He worked for the WCC for some years. And he continued to inspire and support the work the rest of his life. RIP, dear giant Desmond.”

Most Rev. Dr Antje Jackelén archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden, tweeted: Archbishop Desmond Tutu is dead. An example in prayer and action. Follower of Jesus. Courage, comfort, transformation, justice and reconciliation are some of the inspiring fruits that have grown out of his service to our common humanity.”

The Church of Sweden tweeted: We wake up today to hear the sad news about the demise of Desmond Tutu. A noble soul, a great human being and a theologian in the true sense of the word, who fought for human rights and whose guiding-star was always truth and reconciliation. A great role model to all of us. RIP.”

 The Muslim Council of Britains secretary general, Zara Mohammed said on the MCB website: Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a model faith leader for our modern times. From his own faith-tradition he spoke truth to power, fearlessly challenged injustice and sought reconciliation where possible. He was a brave voice for equality and against apartheid, whoever was the perpetrator. His life is a reminder to us all that we can only build a better world for the common good with a compassionate heart and a just voice.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency headlined an obituary for Tutu: Desmond Tutu, anti-apartheid leader who identified with Jews and criticized Israels treatment of Palestinians, dies at 90.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel reflected on Tutus great concern and struggle with the recognition that all human beings are equal, without discrimination of color, sex, social class or religious belief. We all have the same rights to a dignified and just life; it was his permanent fight against apartheid in South Africa and he crossed borders to bring his voice and gaze for the good of the peoples, of life and equality,” wrote Esquivel. We are all children of God. His faith was instrumental in the fight for rights and equality.”

Tutu was a man of prayer, who felt in his mind and heart open to humanity, to creation, to ecumenism, continued Esquivel. A tireless fighter for the rights and equality of all and all, he was a sower of life and hope for humanity,” wrote Esquivel. We know that the world we think and dream of is not the world we live in, but we have to make every effort to achieve a more just and fraternal world for all humanity, that is your teaching. Thanks brother.”

World mourns loss of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (WCC news release 26 December 2021)

Desmond Tutu: Pastor of the Nation - A Tribute | World Council of Churches

Desmond Tutu’s address to the Fifth World Conference on Faith and Order, Santiago de Compostela, 1993

Desmond Tutu’s address to the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Porto Alegre, 2006

A description of how Tutu arrived at midnight at the 1983 assembly in Vancouver during the Vigil for Peace and Justice having been just granted a passport by the South African authorities

Desmond Tutu: "Caring and compassion will prevail over evil and injustice" (WCC news release 20 May 2008) 

WCC special photo gallery: "Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the WCC"