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 CNS Story:

REHNQUIST-CATHEDRAL Sep-6-2005 (570 words) xxxn

Lutheran's funeral in Catholic cathedral unusual, but permitted

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The announcement that the funeral of Chief Justice William Rehnquist would be held at Washington's St. Matthew Cathedral raised questions about the ecumenical provisions allowing a Lutheran funeral in a Catholic church.

After his Sept. 3 death, the funeral for Rehnquist, a Lutheran, was scheduled for the Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of Washington.

The Sept. 7 funeral was to be a Lutheran service, which is permitted in a Catholic church with the approval of the local bishop, said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Gibbs said allowing services of another denomination to be held in a Catholic church "is not that common, but we're happy to be able to do it when we can."

St. Matthew's was made available at the request of the Rehnquist family when the date they wished to hold the funeral conflicted with the schedule for the National Cathedral, the Episcopalian-administered church often used for large funerals of Washington public figures of various denominations.

National Cathedral spokesman Gregory Rixon said the cathedral could have been available later in the week, but not on the family's requested date.

Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said he was pleased the Catholic archdiocese could make St. Matthew's available.

"Like so many other Americans, I was saddened by the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist," said a statement from Cardinal McCarrick. "I had the privilege of knowing him personally and of being with him many times over the years. He regularly attended the Red Mass, celebrated each October here in our nation's capital, to pray for those in the administration of justice. He was always most gracious and thoughtful in his comments on those occasions. My prayers are with his family as they mourn their loss and with all of us who will miss his wisdom and deep love of the law."

Both the Code of Canon Law and the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have provisions that give the local bishop authority to allow services of other faiths in Catholic churches.

The ecumenical norms say that while Catholic churches are generally reserved for Catholic worship the local bishop may decide to allow their use by other faiths if they do not have a place available.

In this case, Gibbs said, the 1,200-seat capacity of St. Matthew's makes it one of the few centrally located churches in Washington available to handle a large congregation. The National Cathedral can seat up to 3,700 people.

Gibbs noted that Rehnquist was a regular visitor to St. Matthew's, participating in the annual Red Mass there every year at the beginning of the court term. She said he attended the Red Mass in all but two of the 33 years he was on the court.

Gibbs said Rehnquist's funeral would in some ways resemble a Catholic Mass, with a liturgy of the word and a familiar-sounding creed, though without a eucharistic liturgy. She said Cardinal McCarrick would welcome participants to the cathedral. The service was to be conducted by Pastors George Evans Jr. and Jeffrey Wilson of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va., and the Rev. Jan Lookingbill of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Bethesda, Md.

After the funeral, Rehnquist was to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where his wife, Natalie, was buried in 1991 after her death from ovarian cancer.


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