Thousands of mourners pay respects at Scalia’s funeral


PHOTO: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pay respect to Justice Antonin Scalia, Photo Date: 2/19/2016 (Image courtesy of MGN Online)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) – Thousands of mourners paid their respects Saturday to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last week at age 79.

Scalia’s casket arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington shortly after 11 a.m. ET. The late justice’s son, Paul Scalia, delivered Mass for his father, and Justice Clarence Thomas, a longtime friend of Scalia’s, will give a reading from Romans 5:5-11, according to the funeral program.

“God blessed Dad, as it’s well known, with a love for his country,” Paul Scalia said, his voice occasionally quavering. “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.”

Scalia added, “He understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as retired Justice John Paul Stevens and former Solicitor General Ted Olson, are in attendance. Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Dick Cheney also attended, as did former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and several members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, including Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett, who have been floated as potential nominees to replace Scalia on the high court, are also there.

Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who served as a law clerk to former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, arrived along with his wife, Heidi.

Not attending, however, was President Barack Obama, a decision that has been criticized by some Republicans. GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted, “I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia if it were held in a Mosque? Very sad that he did not go!”

More than 6,000 mourners, including Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and members of Congress, stood in long lines Friday at the Supreme Court building for the chance to view Scalia’s casket as he laid in repose.

Scalia, the leading conservative voice on the high court, died in his sleep last Saturday during a visit to Texas.

His death set off an immediate debate about whether Obama should fill the seat in an election year.

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