The late Desmond Tutu is one of the most public figures to undergo aquamation.
On December 26, 2021, Archbishop Desmond Tutu passed away at the age of 90 in Capetown, South Africa. Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent opposition to apartheid in South Africa and served as an inspiration to many.
Tutu, who was known for living a humble lifestyle, had asked for a modest funeral and an environmentally friendly cremation. It is reported that aquamation is more eco-friendly than standard cremation with fire due to the reduced level of greenhouse gases.
His body will undergo aquamation, which is a new, environmentally friendly method of cremation that uses water instead of fire.
How Does Aquamation Work?
Aquamation is also known under its official name, “alkaline hydrolisis.” During this process, a deceased body is submerged in a mixture of water and a strong alkali in a pressurized cylinder for about three to four hours.
During this process, the cylinder is heated to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The process causes skins, organs, and hair to liquefy until only the bones are left. These bones are then dried and crushed into a white powder. The remains are then placed in an urn, which can be given to relatives.
It should be noted that aquamation is only allowed in certain countries. Tutu died in South Africa, which currently has no law forbidding the practice.
American researcher Philip R. Olson explained that aquamation was first developed in the 1990s to quickly discard animal remains that had been used in experiments. It was also a popular method of safely dispatching cattle that had been infected during the mad cow disease pandemic.
A decade later, medical schools around the United States started to use aquamation as a quick way to dispose of donated human cadavers before it became a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional funeral practices.
Leaders Around The World Pay Tribute To The Late Archbishop
Many world leaders stopped what they were doing on Boxing Day in order to express their condolences for the late Tutu.
President Joe Biden released an official statement from the White House along with a brief tweet where Biden wrote, “Today, we are heartbroken to learn of the passing of a true servant of God and of the people, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. We send our deepest condolences to the people of South Africa who are mourning this great loss.”
Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, tweeted, “Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere. pic.twitter.com/qiiwtw8a5B
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 26, 2021
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, gave a lengthy speech addressing his passing, saying, “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.”
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, tweeted, “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa – and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humour.”
Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, tweeted, “Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was a guiding light for countless people globally. His emphasis on human dignity and equality will be forever remembered. I am deeply saddened by his demise, and extend my heartfelt condolences to all his admirers. May his soul rest in peace.”