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Catholic Archbishop in South Africa Says Late Anglican Archbishop was Courageous Leader

Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale of South Africa's Johannesburg Archdiocese. Credit: Sacred Photos ZA/Sheldon Reddiar

The Catholic Archbishop of South Africa’s Johannesburg Archdiocese has described the late Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a courageous leader who fought for the rights of the vulnerable in society.

In his Tuesday, January 11 interview with South Africa’s Radio Veritas, Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale said that the late Archbishop emerged at a time when there was a huge political vacuum in the country.

“Desmond Tutu, during his time, was a very courageous leader, in fact he described himself as a leader by default,” Archbishop Tlhagale said, and explained, “It was a time when most political organizations were burned and political leaders thrown into prison.”

The Local Ordinary of Johannesburg Archdiocese who doubles as the Liaison Bishop for Migrants and Refugees of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said that the late Anglican Prelate put on the mantle of “a political leader” and strongly fought against the apartheid regime.

“During his days as secretary general of the council of churches and from then onward, he put on the mantle of a political leader, very visible in the country opposing the apartheid regime,” the South African Catholic Archbishop said, and added, “He was different, and I have not been able to figure this out; he directly confronted the government.”

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Archbishop Tlhagale acknowledged the ability that the Anglican Archbishop had in convening meetings with the government officials, noting that the meetings were conducted with utmost prowess.

“He had conversations, meetings at the union buildings, in various places with political leaders themselves... He met with these people, which if you think about it, was most unusual, because they would not descend to the level of talking to the black people,” Archbishop Tlhagale said about the Anglican Archbishop who was laid to rest on New Year’s Day in Cape Town.

The Catholic Archbishop added in reference to the meetings Archbishop Tutu held with government officials, “Somehow when he woke up and asked for an appointment, insisted and waited on it, he managed to speak to them, but that was his strategy as it were to confront the government about the various issues.”

Archbishop Tlhagale also noted the late Anglican Archbishop extended his mission overseas where he became “the spokesperson of the black people”.

“He confronted the government about the plight of the majority of the people. He also became a leader in the sense that he was not only using the platform here in South Africa but increasingly began to be the spokesperson of the black people, oppressed people overseas especially in North America and then he supported sanctions against South Africa,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.

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Acclaimed for fighting for an end to racial segregation in his native country of South Africa, Archbishop Tutu died December 26 in Cape Town at the age of 90.

Pope Francis and Catholic Bishops in South Africa were among those who sent condolence messages to the family of the late Prelate.

A note signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, read, “Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and he offers heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.”

On their part, SACBC members expressed their “fraternal message of condolences” to the wife of the late Archbishop, the family, and the Anglican Church.

“The SACBC would like to convey a fraternal message of condolences to Mrs. Leah Tutu, the family and the Anglican Church over the death of the Late Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Desmond Mpilo Tutu,” SACBC members said in their message published on their website.

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