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February 14, 2016

Chaput mourns loss of Scalia, calls him 'legal genius'

Philly Archbishop praises late justice's deep Catholic faith

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput mourned the loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Sunday. Scalia was found dead Saturday at the age of 79. 

In a statement, Chaput said he knew the Trenton native personally. He said he disagreed with Scalia on certain matters -- such as the death penalty -- but agreed with him on many others.

Chaput said Scalia would be "sorely missed" and noted he hopes his replacement is someone of the same "moral character." Here's his full statement:

Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of outstanding legal genius and deep Catholic faith. I had the privilege of knowing and engaging him personally; disagreeing with him on matters like the death penalty; but agreeing with him on so many other issues and admiring his extraordinary moral integrity. In an age of superficial executive and legislative leadership, he grounded the American project in the great and original character of the Constitution.

He will be sorely missed; but he has left an unforgettable witness of faith and reason in service to the common good. May God grant him eternal joy, and our nation a replacement of similar moral character.

Scalia's Catholic faith was a big part of his life. As Time Magazine points out, when he was appointed to the bench in 1986, Catholic justices were rare.

Now, they're the majority, with five other justices being of Catholic faith: Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.

Time notes Scalia often tried to distinguish between how his faith was separated from his decisions on the bench. More from Time:

Scalia was no stranger to debate over how he lived as a Catholic and ruled as a justice, especially on matters like abortion and marriage, when his positions aligned with Catholic social doctrine and on the death penalty, where his views diverged. Scalia often made a point of publicly distinguishing between the two parts of his life.

Scalia, a notoriously conservative justice, wrote a scathing dissent to the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage in the United States in 2015, suggesting that it undermined democracy.

Scalia had also argued that there is no constitutional right to abortion, however, he believed that the death penalty was constitutional.