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Funeral Services Held on Saturday For Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Feb 20, 2016
Originally published on February 20, 2016 7:33 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last Saturday, was buried today after a funeral mass attended by more than 3,000 people in the nation's capital.

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MARTIN: At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, it seemed much of legal Washington was there, Republican and Democrat. The justices themselves, lawyers who argued before them, judges of the lower courts, three of whom have been mentioned as possible nominees to be Scalia's successor and literally thousands of friends and neighbors of the man known to them simply as Nino. NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

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NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: This was, as one of the justice's friends put it, Nino's last opera. Sitting behind the altar were Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, in scarlet robe and cap, along with 108 priests and bishops and 39 deacons. The National Shrine is the largest Catholic church in North America, decorated with brilliantly colored mosaics on the walls. And this mass did have all the rituals of a grand opera - a parade of priests carrying a sparkling gold cross, incense, gorgeous music and of course, the Scalia family, including wife Maureen, nine Scalia children and most of the 28 grandchildren. The principal celebrant of this mass was the justice's son Paul, a Catholic priest.

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PAUL SCALIA: Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.

TOTENBERG: No eulogies, only Father Paul's homily in which he referred to his father simply as dad.

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SCALIA: He loved the clarity and coherence of the church's teachings. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation, as Christ working within him for his salvation.

TOTENBERG: Although, said Paul, his father had once scolded him for hearing confession on a Saturday.

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SCALIA: The issue that evening was not that I'd been hearing confessions but that he had found himself in my confessional line.

(LAUGHTER)

SCALIA: And he quickly departed it.

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TOTENBERG: Father Paul choked up only once when speaking of his father, saying he was blessed by a marriage of 55 years to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step and hold him accountable. Most of the homily was devoted to a description of Justice Scalia's love of his Catholic faith and love of country. He understood, said Father Paul, that there was no conflict between the two.

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SCALIA: He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. 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.

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TOTENBERG: At the end of the mass, Father Paul incensed the cast casket in the final commendation, and it was carried out by the justice's sons and sons-in-law.

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UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing, unintelligible).

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing, unintelligible). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.