Scalia remembered as man of faith, family and law

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was remembered Saturday as a man of faith, family and the law in a funeral marked by church ritual and pageantry for the conservative jurist whose larger-than-life personality dominated the high court for nearly three decades.

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A who's who of the nation's political and legal elite was among more than 3,000 mourners at a funeral Mass for Scalia at the largest Catholic church in the United States. Vice-President Joe Biden and 10 of the 11 living justices with whom Scalia served joined his wife of 55 years, their nine children and dozens of grandchildren on a balmy winter morning.

President Barack Obama did not attend Scalia's funeral Mass, despite some criticism from Republicans. The White House said the decision is a "respectful arrangement" given the president's large security detail and Biden's personal relationship with Scalia's family.

Scalia was buried later Saturday in a private ceremony at an undisclosed location. He died unexpectedly last week at age 79 at a resort ranch in west Texas. He was the longest-serving among the current justices and the court's most outspoken conservative.

His death has set off a tumultuous political fight over a replacement and is affecting the presidential campaign.

The Rev. Paul Scalia, the justice's son and a Catholic priest, presided over a traditional service that lasted more than 1 1/2 hours and dispensed with eulogies that Scalia himself had said he did not like. Instead, his son spoke with reverence and humour about Scalia as a father and Catholic who saw "no conflict between faith and the love of one's country."

Scalia regarded the founding of the United States as "a blessing -- a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square or when we refuse to bring it there," his son said.

As a father, "he loved us and sought to show that love and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured," he said.

"Sure he forgot our names at times or mixed them up, but there are nine of us," Paul Scalia said to laughter from the crowd at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Among the other participants in the Mass was Justice Clarence Thomas, who also is Catholic. Thomas read a passage from the New Testament's Book of Romans.

Scalia was known as a champion of originalism -- interpreting the Constitution according to the meaning understood when it was adopted. He famously sparred with liberals who view the constitution as a "living document" and frequently declared in public speeches his view that the Constitution is "dead, dead, dead."

His flag-draped casket was brought to the church from the Supreme Court, where more than 6,000 visitors, including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, paid their respects on Friday.

Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.


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