Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, died Sunday, the country’s president announced. He was 90 years old.

Apartheid’s brutal regime oppressing the black majority in South Africa – Tutu worked tirelessly, but non-violently, to overthrow it.

During his tenure as first Black bishop of Johannesburg and later Archbishop of Cape Town, he used his pulpit and public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity both at home and abroad.

Tutu’s death on Sunday is “another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have left us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, to the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Arch demonstrated that he was a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”

According to a statement released Sunday by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Trust, Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, Tutu had been hospitalized a number of times since 2015.

Desmond Tutu

Typically, he used his own misfortune to raise awareness and reduce the suffering of others, said the Tutu trust in a statement. The earlier prostate cancer is detected and managed, the more likely it is to be cured.” “He wanted the world to know that he had prostate cancer.”

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and many others. Archbishop Tutu had a universal spirit, rooted in the struggle for liberation and justice within his own country, but also concerned about injustice around the world. He never lost his sense of humor or willingness to see humanity in others, and Michelle and I will miss him dearly,” former U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama said.

He and his wife, Leah, lived in a retirement community outside Cape Town in recent years.

As South Africa was gripped by anti-apartheid violence in the 1980s, and a state of emergency gave police and the military broad powers, Tutu was one of the most prominent Blacks who could speak out against abuses.

Tutu’s wit softened the harshness of his messages and warmed otherwise grim protests, funerals and marches. He was short, plucky, and tenacious. Apartheid leaders learned not to underestimate his talent for quoting appropriate Scriptures to mobilize righteous support.

Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 recognized his standing as one of the world’s most effective champions of human rights, a responsibility he took seriously for the rest of his life.

In 1994, after the end of apartheid and the country’s first democratic elections, Tutu called the country a “rainbow nation,” a statement that captured the heady optimism of the time.

Tutu, nicknamed “the Arch,” was diminutive, with an impish sense of humor, but became a towering figure in the history of his nation, comparable to fellow The first Black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was a prisoner during white rule. Tutu and Mandela both devoted themselves to building a better, more equal South Africa.

Mandela spent his first night in freedom at Tutu’s house in Cape Town in 1990, after 27 years in prison. Mandela later referred to Tutu as “the people’s archbishop.”

As president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of apartheid.

Tutu campaigned internationally for equal rights, including rights for gays and lesbians.

He said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBT rights in Cape Town, “I would not worship a god who is homophobic.” “I would not accept a heaven that is homophobic.” Instead, I would say, “Sorry, I would rather go to another place.”

As passionate about the LGBT rights campaign (as he was about apartheid), Tutu said. It is on the same level for me.” He was among the most prominent religious leaders who advocated LGBT rights. Tutu’s public support for LGBT rights put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent as well as within the Anglican Church.

Though Tutu grew disillusioned with the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement that became the ruling party in 1994, he saw South Africa as a “rainbow” nation of promise for racial reconciliation and equality. Occasionally, his outspoken remarks long after apartheid angered partisans, who accused him of being biased or out of touch.

In particular, Tutu was enraged by the South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, preventing him from attending Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration as well as a planned gathering of Nobel laureates in Cape Town. Tutu accused South Africa of bowing to pressure from China, a major trading partner.

The friendship and spiritual bond between us was something we treasured. Desmond Tutu devoted his life to serving his brothers and sisters for the greater good of all. A true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights,” said the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.

Tutu defended the reconciliation policy that ended white minority rule in 2016 during a time when some South Africans felt they had not seen the economic opportunities and other benefits expected after apartheid ended. Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid atrocities and offered amnesty to some perpetrators, but some people believe more former white officials should have been prosecuted.

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Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born Oct. 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg. He became a teacher before entering St. Peter’s Theological College in Rosetenville in 1958. After being ordained in 1961, he became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare six years later. In 1975, Tutu returned to the tiny southern African kingdom of Lesotho before moving to Britain. He became bishop of Lesotho, chairman of the South African Council of Churches, the first Black bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and the first Black archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. In addition to promoting gay priests, he ordained women priests.

Tutu was arrested in 1980 for taking part in a protest, and his passport was seized for the first time. He used it to travel to the United States and Europe, where he met with the United Nations secretary-general, the pope and other church leaders.

To resolve the conflict, Tutu called for international sanctions against South Africa.

During the negotiating period of 1990-1994, Tutu conducted numerous funeral services following the massacres. He railed against black-on-black political violence, asking crowds, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” In one powerful moment, Tutu defused the rage of thousands of mourners in a township soccer stadium after the Boipatong massacre of 42 people in 1992, leading the crowd in chants proclaiming their love of God and themselves.

Mandela asked Tutu to head the truth commission in 1994 to promote racial reconciliation after he became president. Hearings on torture, murder, and other atrocities during apartheid were harrowing. Desmond Tutu wept at some hearings.

His words at the time were, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.”. The 1998 report attributed most of the blame to apartheid, but also found the African National Congress responsible for human rights abuses. The ANC sued to prevent the release of the document, earning Tutu’s rebuke. Tutu said he did not struggle to oust one set of tin gods just to replace them with others who are tempted to believe the same.

During the month of July 2015, Tutu and wife Leah renewed their 1955 wedding vows. In a church ceremony, the Tutus’ four children and other relatives surrounded the elderly couple. “You can see that we followed the biblical command: We multiplied and we are fruitful,” Tutu told the congregation. “But all of us here want to say thanks … Without you, we would be nothing.”

In addition to his wife and their four children, Tutu is survived by his wife of 66 years.

Once, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press: “He loved.”. His laughter filled the room. His tears flowed. His forgiveness was granted. Forgiveness was granted. He was very fortunate.

Contributing to this report was AP journalist Christopher Torchia.

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