Thousands of mourners, including much of official Washington, attended a funeral Mass Saturday for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most influential jurists in the history of the high court.
The Rev. Paul Scalia, one of the justice’s sons, led the Mass at the nation’s largest Roman Catholic church, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in northeast Washington. His four other sons served as pallbearers.
In the homily, Father Scalia said God blessed his father “with a love for his country.”
“He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was,” Father Scalia said. “And he saw in that founding, as did the Founders themselves, a blessing — a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square or when we refuse to bring it there.”
Justice Scalia “understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service,” his son said.
“Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and a public servant he became,” he said.
PHOTOS: Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice, eulogized at funeral
Father Scalia’s voice cracked with emotion when he spoke of his father’s love of family.
“We have been thrilled to read and hear the many words of praise and admiration for him, for his intellect, his writings, his speeches, his influence,” he said. “But more important to us and to him — he was dad. He was the father that God gave us for the great adventure of family life.”
Father Scalia also recalled with gentle humor that his status as a Catholic priest didn’t shield him from his father’s criticism on occasion, saying Justice Scalia once scolded him for hearing confessions.
“He had found himself in my confessional line, and he quickly departed it,” Father Scalia said. “As he put it later, ‘Like heck if I’m confessing to you.’ The feeling was mutual.”
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, one of Justice Scalia’s closest colleagues, gave a Bible reading from Romans 5:5-11.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, praised Justice Scalia as an “extraordinary man.” Addressing the justice’s widow, Maureen, he promised to keep his remarks brief “in keeping with your desires to have a simple, family parish Mass.”
Among those attending the Mass were Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Jill; the eight current Supreme Court justices and former Justices John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter; former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz; former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah.
Several federal judges who are considered possible replacements for Justice Scalia also were at the Mass, including Judges Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett and Chief Judge Merrick Garland, all of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Justice Scalia died last weekend during a hunting trip at a ranch in Texas at age 79. The leading conservative voice on the high court had served in the post for nearly 30 years.
A black hearse carried his flag-draped casket to the basilica from the Supreme Court, where it was viewed Friday by more than 6,000 people, including President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Mr. Obama did not attend the funeral Mass, prompting some criticism. The White House said security precautions would be disruptive, and that the president is working this weekend reviewing background information on possible nominees to replace Justice Scalia.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the U.S., also were in attendance.
There had never before been a funeral for a Supreme Court justice at the basilica. Three popes have visited the basilica — Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis last year.