S Africa`s Tutu marks 80th birthday in cathedral
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Last Updated: Friday, October 07, 2011, 21:40
Cape Town: South Africa's Desmond Tutu on Friday celebrated his 80th birthday in the cathedral where he once rallied against white rule, using his famed charisma to soothe raw feelings over the Dalai Lama's absence.

St George's Cathedral, where Tutu served as the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town until 1996, was filled with family and well-wishers from U2 frontman and campaigner Bono to Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe sat in the front pew across from Tutu's family, but notably absent was President Jacob Zuma whose government the "Arch" has accused of kowtowing to China by not granting entry to the Dalai Lama.

Zuma offered a conciliatory branch to Tutu today with a birthday message saying that the activist plays an important role in South Africa, and that his efforts had aided the liberation movement.

"Archbishop Tutu has a special place in the hearts of our people for the manner in which he stood up against the apartheid state, speaking out against injustice and oppression," he said.

"As one of our four Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, we respect him, love him and always welcome his counsel on issues."

Tutu also reached out to Motlanthe, hugging him in front of the church.

"Thank you so very much for coming, despite some of the hiccups that we have had," Tutu told Motlanthe, in the only reference to the visa drama.

Tutu's outrage at Zuma -- whom he has criticised for graft scandals that never made it to trial -- boiled over again this week when the Dalai Lama cancelled his planned visit for the birthday, saying he had not received a visa in time.

"I am warning you that we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us," Tutu said on Tuesday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, a longtime friend of Tutu's and a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, is now set to give a speech tomorrow by video link.

The tensions of the week, which have dominated South Africa's front pages, were pushed to the side today as the pews of St George's filled and birthday presents piled at the entrance.

Combining African drums and incense-laden church ceremony, the multi-lingual service paid tribute to the man regarded as South Africa's moral conscience with the laughter and warmth that he is famed for.


First Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, 21:40

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