U.S. Capitol rotunda (CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

U.S. Capitol rotunda (CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia)

The body of the late Rev. Billy Graham will lie in repose in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol where the public and members of the Capitol Hill community will pay their respects to the man who became known as “America’s pastor.”

Graham, America’s best-known evangelist and a spiritual adviser to 11 presidents who preached to more than 2.2 billion souls in more than seven decades of ministry, died Wednesday at the age of 99.

billygrahampreachingHouse Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Graham’s casket will be brought to the Rotunda next Wednesday and will lie in honor until Thursday.

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will take part in a service with members of both the House and Senate.

In an invitation letter to Graham’s son Rev. Franklin Graham, the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Republican leaders said they sought to recognize Billy Graham’s “long and distinguished service to the nation.”

He will be the first religious leader so honored and the first private citizen since the civil-rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005.

Graham will be buried March 2 at the worldwide headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte next to his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007.

His tombstone will read “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Graham’s plain wood coffin was made by prisoners, convicted murderers, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

The private funeral will be held in a tent in the parking of the Billy Graham Library at BGEA headquarters in tribute to the tent revivals in Los Angeles in 1949 that launched his global ministry, family spokesman Mark DeMoss said.

Invitations are being sent to President Trump and the five living former presidents.

A registered Democrat, Graham developed influential relationships with 11 presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. He met briefly with President Obama at the evangelist’s home, April 25, 2010, and prayed with him.

Graham described Ronald Reagan as the president to whom he was closest. A close friend of the Bush family, Graham prayed with George H.W. Bush as the first bombs of Desert Storm fell on Baghdad in 1991.

George W. Bush recalled that at a time when he was a cynic and a heavy drinker with many questions about faith, Graham had an “enormous influence” on his life.

“Billy Graham helped me understand the redemptive power of a risen Lord,” he said.

Graham also developed a friendship with Bill Clinton. Clinton remembered attending a Graham crusade in Little Rock, Arkansas, when he was 13 and becoming so moved he sent a portion of his allowance to Graham’s ministry for years afterward.

Trump and all five living former presidents issued tributes Wednesday to Graham.

Former President Barack Obama’s tribute drew criticism Wednesday from progressive allies who objected to Graham’s Bible-based stance on homosexual behavior.

Obama tweeted: “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”

Bill Clinton, speaking also for his wife, Hillary Clinton, called Graham “one of the most important religious leaders in American history” and said the evangelist “has finished his long good race, leaving our world a better place and claiming his place in glory.”


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