Tributes have been paid at the state funeral in South Africa of Archbishop Desmond Tutu – described as a “giant” in the anti-apartheid struggle who “lit up the world”.

Tutu, who died aged 90 on 26 December, helped spearhead the fight against white minority rule and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his non-violent opposition to the regime.

His funeral service, taking place in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, follows days of mourning in which hundreds paid their respects by singing and laying flowers.

In a video message at ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described how people globally had been inspired by Tutu.

Rev Welby said: “Archbishop Tutu lit up the world… that light has lit up countries globally that were struggling with fear, conflict, persecution, oppression, where the marginalised suffered.

“He never ceased to shed light. His light was the light of Christ, and that is why his light will go on shining.”

He described Tutu and the former South African president Nelson Mandela as “two giant figures that towered over the world”.

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At the cathedral, the archbishop’s daughter, Reverend Nontombi Naomi Tutu, said: “Thank you daddy for the many ways you showed us love, for the many times you challenged us, for the many times you comforted us.”

Tutu, who was South Africa’s first black archbishop, requested “no lavish spending” on his funeral and even “asked that the coffin be the cheapest available”, his foundation said.

Attendance at the event was limited due to coronavirus restrictions.

His body is expected to be aquamated after the funeral – a process which involves dissolving the remains in a solution that is considered to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation.

Church bells have been rung every day in the archbishop’s honour since his death and tributes and prayers have poured in from around the world.

Tutu’s death came eight years after that of Mandela, who became president of the new “rainbow nation” in 1994 following his release from decades behind bars under the apartheid regime.

The archbishop chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission aimed at shedding light on the atrocities committed under white rule.

“Sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless,” Mandela once said of his friend.

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