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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia remembered for love of God, country, family

Maureen McCarthy Scalia follows her husband's casket as it is lead out of church after the funeral Mass for US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, on February 20, 2016.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was remembered Saturday as a man who loved God, country and family at a funeral Mass capping two days of mourning for a jurist who left a long and sometimes controversial legacy on the U.S.

Scalia's son Paul — a Catholic priest — led the service and mixed humour and reverence for the conservative icon and father of nine who died unexpectedly last weekend.

"Sure he forgot our names at times or mixed them up, but there are nine of us," Scalia told thousands of mourners at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

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"He loved us and sought to show that love and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured," Scalia said.

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."

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. Four of the five Catholic justices took communion.

Scalia's flag-draped casket arrived at the basilica after he lay in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday, where thousands of visitors came to honour one of the country's most influential conservative voices. Scalia's sons and sons-in-law served as pallbearers to carry his flag-draped casket up the steps of the basilica.

Leonard Leo, executive director of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, read a passage from the Old Testament's Book of Wisdom.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who shared Scalia's conservative bent, read a passage from the New Testament's Book of Romans.

Several federal judges who are considered possible replacements for Scalia also attended 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.

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President Barack Obama did not attend Saturday's funeral Mass, 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.

Scalia, 79, died last weekend at a remote Texas ranch after spending nearly three decades on the high court. A private burial ceremony was to follow the Mass.

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz interrupted his campaign on the same day as South Carolina's 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.

Washington's archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl delivered opening remarks at the service.

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

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