- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

Catholic Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl yesterday invoked the legacies of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and their ideals of American law and religion while celebrating his first Red Mass, held each year on the Sunday before the Supreme Court’s fall session.

“George Washington, after whom this city is named, was not the first, but perhaps the most prominent American political figure to highlight the vital part religion must play in the well-being of the nation,” Archbishop Wuerl said at the 53rd annual Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest. “His often-quoted farewell address reminds us that we cannot expect national prosperity without morality. And morality cannot be sustained without religious principles.”

Archbishop Wuerl also cited the Declaration of Independence and the writings of Thomas Jefferson, which he said were intended to be “an expression of the American mind and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit.”

Four Supreme Court justices and other government and Catholic officials were among the 1,500 people who filled the 111-year-old church for the 80-minute service.

Fire marshals had to close the church doors, off Rhode Island Avenue, shortly after the service began at 10 a.m. as a safety precaution for the overflow crowd.

The Red Mass is named after the clergy vestments and the color of fire, a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The masses began centuries ago in Rome, Paris and London.

The justices attending yesterday were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, all Roman Catholics.

Other U.S. officials included Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso R. Jackson, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt and Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who conducted the second reading of Mass.

The first reading was performed by Anita B. McBride, chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

Also attending were ambassadors from Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Norway, Portugal and Venezuela.

At conclusion of the Mass and as normal Sunday services began, the justices, other officials and their spouses went to brunch at the nearby Renaissance Mayflower Hotel for the presentation of awards by the John Carroll Society to two lawyers and a staff member for “outstanding volunteer legal services to low-income people in the Washington area.”

Lawyers Kevin C. Fitzgerald and William E. Lawler III were recipients. Legal staffer Francine L. Higginbotham was honored for supervising and managing the taking of telephone calls from poor people needing legal services.

Last year, according to the archdiocese’s Community Services, $10 million in free, legal services were provided to 6,000 needy people by more than 280 lawyers and 55 law firms.

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