Funeral Set for Wednesday At St. Matthew's Cathedral

By Martin Weil and Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 5, 2005

Funeral services for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will be held Wednesday at St. Matthew's Cathedral, the Supreme Court announced last night.

The chief justice's body will lie in repose at the court tomorrow and Wednesday before the services. The public can pay respects to the chief justice at the court tomorrow from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, the Supreme Court said.

Burial for Rehnquist, who died Saturday night at age 80, will be Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

The funeral will begin at 2 p.m. at St. Matthew's, at 1725 Rhode Island Ave. NW. It will be open to family and friends, the Supreme Court said.

Rules of the Roman Catholic Church based on decisions of the second Vatican conference permit church use for funerals for those who, like Rehnquist, are not Roman Catholics, according to a spokeswoman for the archdiocese of Washington. Rehnquist belonged to a Lutheran church.

Susan Gibbs, the spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said the request to use St. Matthew's came from the Rehnquist family through the court. She indicated that the request was apparently made on the basis of the cathedral's availability and size.

The church has seating for about 2,000 in its main section and side chapels.

Gibbs said that she did not know who would preside at the funeral but that Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, will take part.

Among the historic events that have taken place under the dome of St. Matthew's was the funeral for President John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963. Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there in 1979.

Gibbs noted that Rehnquist had been at St. Matthew's, just east of Connecticut Avenue in downtown Washington, for the annual Red Mass, which recognizes the legal profession.

Previous funerals at St. Matthew's for prominent non-Catholics could not be recalled immediately.

Rehnquist's thyroid cancer was diagnosed in October. He had served on the court for 33 years and had been the nation's 16th chief justice since being elevated to that position in 1986.

Rehnquist was a World War II Army veteran and his wife, Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 22, 1991, after she died at age 62 of ovarian cancer. The tombstone over her grave also lists her husband's name, with open spaces for the end of his tenure as chief justice as well as his date of death.

The chief justice's family includes three children; a sister; and nine grandchildren.

Five justices' bodies have lain in repose in the Supreme Court building's marble Great Hall: Chief Justices Earl Warren and Warren E. Burger, Rehnquist's immediate predecessors; and Justices Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr. and Harry A. Blackmun.

The last chief justice to die in office was Fred M. Vinson, who was 63 when he died Sept. 8, 1953. He was eulogized in a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral and buried in his hometown of Louisa, Ky.

The last associate justice to die in office was Robert H. Jackson, who died Oct. 10, 1954. Eleven Supreme Court justices, including Warren and Burger, are buried at Arlington.

Burger was memorialized at National Presbyterian Church in 1995 before his burial at Arlington. Rehnquist was a longtime member of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Bethesda, and the funeral for his wife was held there.

The Supreme Court said last night that Rehnquist's funeral would be a Lutheran service; details were not available.

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