Christian press in Europe commemorates Bishop Tutu




Bishop Desmond Tutu. Photo EPA, Andrew Gombert

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died on Sunday at the age of 90, was a source of inspiration for many people, Christian media in Europe write. However, he was not entirely uncontroversial.

Norway: Vårt Land

The Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land calls Tutu a "friend of Norway", who came to Norway "almost as a missionary." He told the congregations that "once you brought the gospel to Africa, but you must have forgotten something." He "stood on our pulpits from which he joked and laughed. And he danced before the altar."

But Tutu had a "different interpretation of the gospel", Vårt Land continues. "He wanted to remind us of a sin we had overlooked, apartheid. People do not get their rights because of their skin colour. It is a deep ethical question, an injustice, the church cannot run from. The social, ethical revival had come to Norway, and now the fight against racial segregation became a matter for Christians in Norway."

The newspaper also mentions that Tutu got involved in the fight for gay rights in recent years. "He wanted to give gays a place in marriage and the church, even though most churches in Africa were against him. And he cheerfully stated unequivocally about the seriousness of the matter: "If heaven is full of homophobes, I will not go there. Then I prefer a much warmer place"."

Norway: Dagen

With Desmond Tutu, the will to fight and the joy of life went hand in hand, Norwegian daily Dagen concludes. "With the Bible in his hand, Tutu waged a tireless struggle to abolish the brutal racial segregation system. He condemned the white rulers of Pretoria but at the same time extended a conciliatory hand to the white people."

Dagen also dwells on Tutu's relationship with Norway, who visited the country several times and was received as a hero in Oslo in 1984 to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But Tutu's moral compass caused him to lose respect for Norway many years later. He accused the government in Oslo of kneeling for China. "I have always had great respect for Norway. It has ended", Tutu told national broadcaster NRK.

Tutu also criticised Israel, which he accused of pursuing an "apartheid policy" against the Palestinians. "The humiliation they are subjected to is well known to all black South Africans who were also insulted, assaulted, harassed and imprisoned by the apartheid regime's security forces", he said in 2014.

Sweden: Dagen

In the Swedish newspaper Dagen, Antje Jackelén , Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, expresses her sadness. But she also calls it "nice that he got to die at Christmas, when we celebrate that God became human in Jesus. In some way, he embodied the incarnation; in him, the faith took on a figure that touched so many."

According to Jackelén, Tutu was a role model who let his Christian faith be a positive force for society. "With him, it was so obvious how his faith was allowed to be expressed in the public space, how he demanded responsibility from those in power and lifted those who were deprived of their voice. With him, you see very clearly how faith must have consequences."

The archbishop further wants to highlight Tutu's credibility and his happy mood. "He believed in a God who has humour. He was truly a man of prayer, someone who rested in prayer and therefore could live out the joy, even in the dark", says the archbishop, who says she met Tutu twice.

"The Anglican church leader, so often dressed in his purple shirt, has been criticised for being too liberal theological, for his statements about Israel and apartheid and for being open to euthanasia. But what he will truly be remembered for is his invaluable role in restoring a broken and divided South Africa", Dagen concludes in its leading article.

Denmark: Kristeligt Dagblad

"Desmond Tutu's strong moral voice has now become silent", headlines Kristeligt Dagblad. The Danish newspaper states that with the death of Tutu, the world "has lost one of its strongest advocates of forgiveness and reconciliation." Tutu "was characterised by its moral integrity and strong Christian faith. He was a man of both word and deed."

Tutu, who was influenced by, among others, the American priest and civil rights activist Martin Luther King and the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "opposed political theology, but it was with theology that he created political change", analyses KD. Central to his thinking is the African concept of 'ubuntu', which means humanity. "A human being is a human being by virtue of other human beings. As children of God, all human beings belong. No one is outside. Everyone is involved." Tutu was sceptical of Western individualism because he saw people as connected.

Holland: Nederlands Dagblad

"Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the death of a prophetic figure, who won over many in South Africa with his decisiveness and charm", Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad summarises Tutu's life. "Tutu will also go down in history as the chairman of 'the' Truth Commission. In this way, South Africa wanted to reconcile black and white. As a Christian, Tutu was the embodiment of that endeavour."

The newspaper also deals with Tutu's criticism of Israel. He compared the country to the 'drunk uncle' in many families. "You take away a drunk uncle's alcohol.” In this spirit, Tutu favoured boycotting Israel to deprive it of how it oppresses the Palestinians." Tutu, the South African Holocaust Centre patron, wondered whether his "Jewish sisters and brothers" had forgotten their own humiliation.

Holland: Reformatorisch Dagblad

"As controversial as conciliatory", Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad calls Tutu. "The thread running through his life was the struggle against what he saw as injustice: whether it was the apartheid regime in South Africa, Israel's treatment of Palestinians or the position of homosexuals."

Tutu was a clergyman who spoke out emphatically about politics and society and saw this as part of his vocation. He rejected accusations that he was in league with Marxist ideas. As a Christian, he emphasised, he did not need such ideologies. "I know of no more radical book than the Bible." For him, an essential point of departure was that every human being was created in God's image and, therefore, should not be treated like rubbish.

Despite his significant role outside the Anglican Church, Tutu always remained a clergyman. He did not start a meeting without prayer, whether with world leaders or with journalists who came to interview him. Whenever he failed to pray, he felt "like I hadn't brushed my teeth", noted biographer John Allen.

Vatican News: Pope Francis

In a telegram sent to Archbishop Peter B. Wells, Apostolic Nuncio in South Africa and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis said he was saddened to learn of the archbishop's death, Vatican News writes. In the telegram, the Pope invoked "the divine blessings of peace and consolation of the Lord" upon all who mourn Archbishop Tutu's passing.

"The Pope quoted the Anglican Archbishop in his 2020 encyclical 'Fratelli Tutti'", the Portuguese website Agência Ecclesia writes. "In this space for reflection on universal brotherhood, I was especially motivated by St. Francis of Assisi and other non-Catholic brothers: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi and many others," he wrote.

Lithuania: Laikmetis

"His campaigns were thorny and often undesirable, whether he had criticised his church for gay rights, the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa for corruption or campaigned for a Palestinian state and the right to die, or opposed marriage to children in Tibet, or called for Western leaders to be tried for the war in Iraq", Lithuanian Catholic platform Laikmetis writes.



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