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Rehnquist funeral Wednesday

Services for Protestant justice was held in Catholic cathedral

The casket bearing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's body is brought to Saint Matthew's Cathedral.
The casket bearing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's body is brought to Saint Matthew's Cathedral.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Wednesday's funeral for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Protestant, was held in Washington's Roman Catholic cathedral — an unusual but not forbidden occurrence under church rules.

The Catholic directory on interfaith matters says churches are "generally reserved for Catholic worship" but local bishops may permit worship by other Christians who lack a place "for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies."

The directory, approved by Pope John Paul II in 1993, applies the principles in the Second Vatican Council's 1964 Decree on Ecumenism, which opened Catholicism to such cooperation with non-Catholics.

Catholic canon law limits use of churches to "things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety or religion."

In this case, the Rehnquist family asked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for use of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle due to its size and central location, said Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Washington Archdiocese.

McCarrick was present to welcome the Protestant worshippers, said the Rev. Jan Lookingbill of Emmanual Lutheran Church in Bethesda, Md., where Rehnquist long held membership.

Lookingbill said he participated in the funeral along with Pastors George Evans Jr. and Jeffrey Wilson of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Va., where Rehnquist was a member in recent years.

Rehnquist's McLean and Bethesda congregations are affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a denomination of 5 million members with headquarters in Chicago.