Desmond Tutu celebrates birthday with Bono, without Dalai Lama (VIDEO)


Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu boards a coach after attending a church service to celebrate his 80th birthday, on October 7, 2011 at St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu celebrated his 80th birthday in the cathedral where he once rallied against white rule, using his famed charisma to soothe raw feelings over the Dalai Lama's absence.



JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Desmond Tutu celebrated his 80th birthday Friday with U2 front man Bono, but without his good friend the Dalai Lama, who had to cancel his planned trip after South Africa failed to issue him a visa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's birthday celebrations were held at a Cape Town, South Africa cathedral where he once preached against apartheid, as part of three days of events to mark his 80th birthday, Reuters reports.

"There is only one rock star in this room, and it's Archbishop Desmond Tutu," said Bono, according to Reuters.

Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his peaceful struggle against apartheid, is widely viewed as South Africa's moral compass, and known for his outspoken statements on a range of issues. 

This week he lashed out at the ruling African National Congress, former President Nelson Mandela's party, over the ANC's failure to allow the Dalai Lama into South Africa amid widespread speculation about pressure from China, the country's largest trading partner.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa debates permitting visit of Dalai Lama

Tutu called the action by President Jacob Zuma's government "a national disgrace." 

"I am warning you that we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us," Tutu said on national television Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, recently returned from a trade mission to Beijing, attended Friday's celebrations at the Cape Town cathedral, but Zuma was noticeably absent, AFP says.

The Dalai Lama is now set to give a speech Saturday by video link from his home in exile in Dharamsala, India, the South African Press Association reports.

His absence from the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the University of the Western Cape will be symbolized by an empty chair.

More from GlobalPost: Desmond Tutu campaigns against Israel