Tutu joins 500 mourners as Lord Runcie is laid to rest

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The Independent Online

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Runcie of Cuddesdon, who died of cancer earlier this month aged 78, was buried yesterday at a "family" service at his home cathedral in St Albans.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Runcie of Cuddesdon, who died of cancer earlier this month aged 78, was buried yesterday at a "family" service at his home cathedral in St Albans.

About 500 mourners, among them the South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and the former Beirut hostage Terry Waite, joined Lord Runcie's wife Rosalind and close family to pay their respects to the man who guided the Church of England through a decade of theological turmoil.

After the funeral service, Lord Runcie's body was carried in its coffin past a gathering crowd and buried beneath a sullen, grey sky in the cathedral's north courtyard. A lone piperplayed "The Mist Covered Mountains" and "The Flowers of the Forest".

Lord Runcie led a church that was divided over the ordination of women, remarrying divorcees and the introduction of modern liturgies, and often clashed with government.

Yesterday, however, was a day spent united in appreciation of a dominant church leader, who, during his time as archbishop from 1980 to 1991, performed the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and welcomed Pope John Paul II to Britain in an historic meeting, praying with him in Canterbury Cathedral.

The funeral was much more of a private service for friends and family than a state occasion - that will come later at a former memorial service at Westminster Abbey in November - but leading church figures were present, including the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, and Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster.

Dr Carey opened the service by paying tribute to his predecessor. "We mourn the loss of a friend, brother Christian, and a great leader in God's church," he said.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, spoke affectionately of his friend, recalling a humorous side. The bishop said: "Sometimes people were surprised to discover that Robert Runcie had such a fine bearing. On the way out of Liverpool Cathedral one day a woman greeted him with, 'Well, fancy that. I thought you were a little shrimp of a man.'"

Bishop James went on: "I heard him describe his father variously as an agnostic Presbyterian or a Presbyterian agnostic, depending on just what degree of subtlety was appropriate.

"His mother was frequently mentioned with affection as a hairdresser on an ocean-going liner. In all this there was a deep love for his roots, his history and his family. He instinctively put himself at the service of others. That was why he was a good pastor. His was an incarnate religion.

"He may have liked fine wine, but his intake was moderate, which is perhaps why he needed a succession of chaplains who could be relied upon to finish any bottle of champagne."

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