NEW YORK—The Most Reverend Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, used Moses, Peter and a free South Africa to illustrate “God’s divine sense of humor” during a Feb. 23 ceremony at the University Church where Fordham awarded him an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
Archbishop Tutu (click here for the Archbishop’s remarks) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid and served as chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, convened to expose and rectify acts of human injustice and to guide the country’s transition to democracy.
“In your long, nonviolent struggle against apartheid, you championed the dignity of the human person and revealed the nobility of the human heart,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University (click here for Father McShane’s remarks). “You also brought the Gospel to life in our times. You also showed us the power that the Gospel has for transforming the world, one heart, one soul at a time.”
After receiving his honorary doctorate, Archbishop Tutu told the standing-room-only crowd that God’s sense of humor is evident in some of His unexpected choices. For instance, he said, selecting Moses, a stammerer, to be His spokesperson; choosing Peter, who denied Christ three times, to be the rock on which to build His church; and allowing South Africa to become an example of democracy for the world.
“Who in his right mind would have set up South Africa to be a beacon of hope? Only someone with a huge sense of humor, with a hypersensitive funny bone in their makeup,” said Archbishop Tutu.
“God is saying to the world, ‘Look at them.’ They had a nightmare called apartheid. It has ended. Your nightmare—Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Sri Lanka, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Darfur, Burma, Chechnya—too, will end,” said Archbishop Tutu. “The lion will lie down again with the lamb. God dreams of a time when you and I and all of us will realize we belong together. We all belong to God’s family, where there are no outsiders.”
The victory of a free South Africa belongs to the world, said Archbishop, because so many people fought to end apartheid. He applauded the audience for its support and said it is wonderful to return to communities he once asked for help with the message that now “we are free.”
The service concluded with a rousing vocal performance by Jabulani, a South African choir, which also performed a concert in honor of Black History Month for students and staff in the McGinley Ballroom following the ceremony.