October 7th, 2011
07:36 AM ET

Desmond Tutu celebrates 80th birthday

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu turned 80 on Friday, days after a spat with the government over a visa delay that prompted the Dalai Lama to cancel a trip to the nation.

A day before his birthday, Tutu danced with the Soweto Gospel Choir during a church celebration to mark his birthday.

Music and laughter rang out in the cathedral during the event attended by Irish rocker Bono of U2.

Celebration events come the same week the Dalai Lama scrapped his planned visit after the nation failed to issue him a visa in time.

Tutu lashed out at the government Tuesday, saying it had forgotten what the nation stood for.

"When we used to apply for passports under the apartheid government, we never knew until the last moment what their decision was," Tutu said at a news conference. "Our government is worse than the apartheid government because at least you were expecting it from the apartheid government.

The Dalai Lama had been invited to the country to receive a peace award and speak at various events, including a lecture in honor of Tutu's birthday. Tutu and the Dalai Lama are recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite the setback, tributes came in early Friday for the man known fondly as "the people's priest" and hailed for his fight for human rights.

In a birthday message, the U.S. Embassy in South Africa said he "continues to provide a moral voice for the voiceless."

"We congratulate Archbishop Desmond Tutu ... and join South Africa and the global community in honoring a man who is recognized for his fearlessness in speaking truth to power," the embassy in Pretoria said in a statement.

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Filed under: South Africa • World
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. jimmy

    He is a little old to be wearing a tutu. Doesnt look like a balerina to me.

    October 7, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. raven

    Both the Archbishop and His Holiness are inspirations . Happy Birthday, Mr Tutu.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. George Patton

    Congradulations Desmond Tutu, you are truly one of the greats no matter how many racist, right-wing idiots rant against you. Happy birthday!

    October 7, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    HB DT. At least Hamas were not invited. Maybe there is hope for him yet.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sonny Bono

    I don't remember being there.

    October 7, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  6. Troll la-di-la

    Happy Birthday, sir.

    @George Patton:

    Everyone on this thread has nothing but good things to say about DT. (The serious ones, anyway) The only one on a rant is YOU! Just shut up, already!

    October 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dalai Lama

    I missed cake and ice cream and pin the tail on the donkey. I bought a spiderman t-shirt for nothing. Where's my loot bag?

    October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. saywhat

    Many happy returns of the day Archbishop.
    With the likes of you there is still hope for humanity.
    @ Bimbo the B.Day Clown

    October 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bimbo the Birthday Clown

      Just commenting on his unfortunate vocal support for Hamas. Other than that, I have no real problem with the man.

      October 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |