High Court Justices Attend Pre-Term Mass

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 1, 2006; 10:17 AM

WASHINGTON -- Four justices joined members of President Bush's Cabinet, foreign ambassadors and the capital's legal community for the worship service traditionally held the Sunday before the Supreme Court's new term.

Four of the five Roman Catholics on the high court _ Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas _ attended the annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.

Justice Samuel Alito, who gave Catholics a majority for the first time when he joined the nine-member court in January, was not seen at the service where Washington's archbishop, Donald W. Wuerl, was presiding.

The service has been held at the cathedral since 1952 by the John Carroll Society, a group of Washington professionals who are Catholic.

Cabinet members attending the service Sunday included Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

Celebration of the Red Mass dates to the 13th century and is conducted to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance for those who seek justice. The Mass takes its name from the red vestments, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, worn by the celebrants.

St. Matthew's is one of the better known Red Masses in this country and is traditionally held on the Sunday before the first Monday in October, when the Supreme Court convenes for the start of its term.

The court is dealing with familiar issues this year such as abortion and race. Bush's two conservative appointees, Roberts and Alito, give opponents of abortion and affirmative action reason to hope the high court will move in their direction.

© 2006 The Associated Press