Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa, in 1931. He received his Licentiate in Theology in 1960 and was ordained to the priesthood in Johannesburg in 1961. He became Dean of St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg, in 1975, but shortly thereafter was elected Bishop of Lesotho. By this time South Africa was in turmoil, in the wake of the Soweto uprising of 1976, and Bishop Tutu was persuaded to leave the Diocese of Lesotho to take up the post of General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). It was in this position, a post he held from 1978 to 1985, that Bishop Tutu became a national and international figure.
In 1984, his contribution to the cause of racial justice in South Africa was recognised when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1985, Bishop Tutu was elected Bishop of Johannesburg. In this capacity he did much to bridge the chasm between black and white Anglicans in South Africa. His office as Bishop of Johannesburg was of short duration, as in 1986 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town. He retired from office in June 1996, but was named Archbishop Emeritus (an honorary title) in July 1996.
Before 1990, Archbishop Tutu's vigorous advocacy of social justice rendered him a controversial figure. Today he is seen as an elder statesman with a major role to play in reconciliation, and as a leading moral voice. Archbishop Tutu has become an icon of hope far beyond the Church and Southern Africa. His book, No Future Without Forgiveness, was honoured with the Book of the Year Award by the Association of Theological booksellers of the United States of America. December 2001 saw the same book receive the Sandro Onofri Prize, bestowed by the Council of Rome, Italy. He has subsequently published God has a Dream.
You can view a video message from Desmond Tutu here.