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Scalia Remembered for Love of God, Country and Family

Never before has a funeral for a Supreme Court justice been held at the basilica.

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    Scalia Remembered for Love of God, Country and Family
    AP
    The casket containing the body of the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia leaves the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington following funeral mass services, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    In a hallowed place where popes have prayed and pilgrims have flocked, mourners gathered Saturday at the nation's largest Catholic church to pay their final respects to Justice Antonin Scalia.

    Scalia's sons and sons-in-law served as pallbearers to carry his flag-draped casket into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a funeral Mass honoring the late jurist who died unexpectedly last weekend.

    Dignitaries including Vice President Joe Biden, former Vice President Dick Cheney, members of Congress and all eight sitting justices of the Supreme Court were among those attending.

    Scalia's casket arrived at the basilica after he lay in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday, where thousands of visitors came to honor one of the country's most influential conservatives.

    One of Scalia's nine children, the Rev. Paul Scalia, lead the Mass and delivered the homily. Rev. Scalia remembered his father as a man who loved God, country and family. But he has said that most important to him and his eight siblings was the love his father showed them.

    Mixing humor into the homily, the younger Scalia has said his father sometimes forgot their names or mixed them up but he excused him because there were nine of them.

    He recalled how his father reacted once after accidentally standing in his son's confessional line. The justice said: "'Like heck if I'm confessing to you.'" Paul Scalia joked that "the Roman collar was not a shield against his criticism."

    Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl drew chuckles when he told the massive crowd at Scalia's funeral Mass that he would keep opening remarks brief "in keeping with your desire to have a simple parish family Mass."

    Several federal judges who are considered possible replacements for Scalia also were at the funeral Mass, including Judges Sri Srinivasan and Patricia Millett and Chief Judge Merrick Garland, all of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    President Barack Obama did not attend, despite criticism from some Republicans. He and first lady Michelle Obama were among the more than 6,000 people who paid tribute to Scalia at the Supreme Court on Friday. Scalia's flag-draped casket rested on a funeral bier that first held President Abraham Lincoln's casket after his 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, 79, died last weekend at a remote Texas ranch after spending nearly three decades on the high court. Burial plans have not been announced.

    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 nominate 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.

    Three popes have visited the basilica: Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis last year.