By Aaron Humes: The late anti-apartheid campaigner and priest Archbishop Desmond Tutu has opted for a special form of cremation, known as alkaline hydrolysis, or “aquamation,” of his body ahead of funeral services this weekend, the BBC reports.
The body of the Archbishop, 90, will be weighed then heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit in a mixture of potassium hydroxide and water for up to 90 minutes. This dissolves the body tissue, leaving only the bones – which are then rinsed at 120 degrees Celsius, dried, and pulverized into a coarse powder using a machine called a cremulator.
Thereafter the remains can be buried or scattered per the deceased’s wishes; in this case, they will be interred behind the pulpit at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town – the Anglican diocese he served as Archbishop for 35 years.
Aquamation is considered a more environmentally friendly form of cremation. Practitioners say it cuts the amount of environmentally harmful carbon dioxide produced by up to 90 percent.
The late Archbishop Tutu’s funeral service is sometime this weekend. It is not yet known whether his family will opt for a private or public ceremony.
He had insisted there should be “no ostentatiousness or lavish spending” on the ceremony and that he be given “the cheapest available coffin”, with the only flowers in the cathedral to be “a bouquet of carnations from his family”, according to the Archbishop Tutu IP Trust and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.
It was “what he aspired to as an eco-warrior,” said priest of St George’s, the Very Reverend Michael Weeder.
Thousands of South Africans have been paying their last respects at St George’s where Tutu’s body has been lying in state.