WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Thousands lined up this morning — including Vice President Joseph Biden, congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices — to pass a security checkpoint at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to attend Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral. It's the first time in history a Supreme Court justice will be buried from the basilica.
Saturday's funeral, which began at 11 a.m., was offered by his son, Fr. Paul Scalia — one of Scalia's nine children — who served as homilist and celebrant. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. gave opening remarks, with Bp. Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia, and papal nuncio Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano also in attendance.
All Supreme Court justices were also present, including two retired justices: John Paul Stevens and David Souter. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz rearranged his schedule in order to make it to the event.
Justice Clarence Thomas, a close friend of Scalia and also a devout Catholic, read Romans 5:5–11, with Leonard Leo, executive director of the Federalist Society, reading a passage from the Old Testament. The funeral will be followed by a private burial.
Justice Scalia passed away in his sleep Feb. 13 at a ranch in Texas just a month shy of his 80th birthday. A devout Catholic, he regularly attended the Traditional Latin Mass. He was married to his wife for 55 years, with whom he had nine children and 36 grandchildren. His son Christopher Scalia published an opinion piece Friday recalling memories of his childhood with his father, which included jovial dinner table conversations, singalongs at parties, and touch football at Thanksgiving. He also noted his father's deep faith.
He drove us to Mass every Sunday. He brought with him his well-worn Roman Missal, its pages wrinkled from holy water and packed with decades-old prayer cards. His behavior during Mass was not always restrained. If he disagreed with a priest’s point during a sermon, he would lean forward, look toward my mother, and frown or shake his head. That was his dissent from the homily. On the other hand, if he liked a sermon, he’d tell the priest as much afterward. We all saw how important Mass was to him, his eyes closed, head bowed as he moved deep into prayer during the consecration and after Communion.
Although Saturday's funeral was not in the old rite, the liturgy included prayers chanted in Latin.
Missing from the funeral were President Obama and the First Lady, who instead paid their respects Friday, where Scalia's body laid in state in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. The Court had to lengthen visiting hours to 9 p.m. because of the number of visitors — more than 6,000 in all.
Obama's visit Friday lasted under two minutes, and he is reportedly spending Saturday reviewing a dossier of potential Supreme Court nominees. Conservatives have condemned the president for his refusal to attend Scalia's funeral, while he's made time to attend the funerals of Sen. Ted Kennedy, broadcaster Walter Cronkite and civil rights activist Dorothy Height, among a number of others.
The Scalia family is having a memorial service March 1. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be offered to the Supreme Court Historical Society, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, or the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.