2016-07-27
Washington, Sept. 6 - A Lutheran funeral service for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist will be held at Washington's Roman Catholic cathedral under a provision that allows Catholic churches to be used for non-Catholic rites.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said St. Matthew's Cathedral in downtown Washington could be used on Wednesday (Sept. 7) for the funeral of Rehnquist, a Lutheran. Rehnquist succumbed to thyroid cancer Saturday (Sept. 3).

Rehnquist's pastor, the Rev. George Evans of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va., will preside at the service and McCarrick will attend, said his spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs.

"Cardinal McCarrick was happy to be able to assist the family," Gibbs said, after Rehnquist's family asked to use the 1,200-seat cathedral to accommodate the large number of expected guests.

In 1963, St. Matthew's hosted the funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy, who was Catholic.

Catholic churches are generally reserved for Catholic worship, but a two-part Vatican document from 1967 and 1970 allows non-Catholics to use facilities if they "do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies."

Rehnquist regularly attended St. Matthew's for the annual Red Mass, held the first Sunday in October for lawyers and judges. In his 33 years on the court, Rehnquist missed the Red Mass only twice, Gibbs said.

Evans said Rehnquist was an active member of his congregation and always made time for church. He also called him a "genuine Lutheran Christian."

"Chief Justice Rehnquist's interests, span of knowledge, quick wit and understandings were large," Evans said in a news release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"I came to regard him as a genuine `Renaissance Man.' His questions were honest, discerning and unassuming. He kept learning and growing. He was our brother in Christ."

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