Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
2 minute read
1 Jan 2022
9:51 am

RIP Desmond Tutu: Why the Dalai Lama won’t be at Archbishop’s funeral

Cheryl Kahla

The Dalai Lama has, in his absence, sent condolences to his 'spiritual brother' Archbishop Desmond Tutu's family and to the people of Africa.

Archbishop Emeritsus Desmond Tutu (R) of South Africa welcomes exiled Tibetan spritual leader Dalai Lama prior to the international peace conference in Hiroshima, 02 November 2006. Photo: AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama shared a special bond, often throwing playful conversational jabs at one another.

Tutu referred to the Dalai Lama as his “older spiritual brother, despite him being an archbishop in the Anglican Church, and the Dalai Lama being a Buddhist.

In the Dalai Lama’s letter to the Archbishop’s daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu, he described the “enduring friendship” and the special bond they formed over the good of humanity.

Tutu’s week-long visit to Dharamsala, India in 2015 was of particular significance to His Holiness, who said they shared their “thoughts on how to increase peace and joy in the world”. 

Many, therefore, assumed the Dalai Lama would attend the Arch’s funeral, despite twice being denied a Visa by the South African government.

However, Ngodup Dorjee, representative of the Dalai Lama, said His Holiness wanted to be in attendance but decided against it due to his advanced age and current state of the pandemic.

When asked if the Dalai Lama would have applied for a Visa if the other factors weren’t an issue, Dorjee said a week would likely not have been enough to make travel arrangements.


WATCH LIVE: Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s funeral service on New Year’s Day


The earlier rejection of the Dalai Lama’s Visa could have played a small role but it was not a consideration in this decision. Dorjee explained:

“The present situation is very different from [back then] when he wanted to come here and applied for a Visa, but those circumstances were different.”

“Today there are restrictions on travel, and he has to protect himself from Covid-19 also”.

The Dalai Lama has, in his absence, sent condolences, and a sense of grief and sadness to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s family and to the people of Africa, Dorjee concluded.

ALSO READ: ‘Spiritual brothers’ Tutu and Dalai Lama’s special friendship

Tutu’s funeral service arrangements

Anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Tutu died on Boxing Day at the age of 90 and will be laid to rest at the St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on New Year’s Day.

The requiem mass will start at 10:00 at St. George’s Cathedral where President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver the eulogy and hand over the national flag to Tutu’s widow, Mam Leah.

This will serve as a reminder of her husband’s description of the post-apartheid country as the “Rainbow Nation”.

Additional reporting by Nica Richards.