WASHINGTON (AP) — In a hallowed place where popes have prayed and pilgrims have flocked, Washington is capping two days of official mourning for Antonin Scalia with a funeral Mass for the late Supreme Court justice.
One of Scalia’s nine children, the Rev. Paul Scalia, was to lead the Mass on Saturday at the nation’s largest Roman Catholic church, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It can hold at least 3,500 people.
Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest serving the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, also planned to deliver the homily as politicians and powerbrokers, and friends and family joined in honoring one of the country’s most influential conservatives. No eulogy was expected.
Antonin Scalia, 79, died last weekend at a remote Texas ranch. He had spent nearly three decades on the high court. Burial plans have not been announced.
Among those expected to attend to Mass was Vice President Joe Biden, along with the eight Supreme Court justices.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were among the more than 3,000 people who paid tribute to Scalia at the Supreme Court on Friday. Scalia’s flag-draped casket rested on a funeral bier first used after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to Biden’s personal relationship with Scalia’s family and said Obama’s decision about the Mass was a “respectful arrangement” that took into account his large security detail.
Scalia’s casket was to remain at the Supreme Court until early Saturday. In a court tradition, groups of his former law clerks took turns standing vigil.
GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz planned to interrupt his campaign ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina primary to attend the Mass. The Texas senator has been among those urging the Senate not to consider replacing Scalia until after the November election. Obama has insisted that he will nominee a successor.
Scheduled to give opening remarks at the Mass was Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl.
Leonard Leo, executive director of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, was to read a passage from the Old Testament, while Justice Clarence Thomas planned to read from the New Testament.
Never before has a funeral for a Supreme Court justice been held 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.
Saturday’s mass is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
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