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Trump Leads Tributes to Late Evangelist Billy Graham


Trump, First Lady Pay Respects to Billy Graham at Capitol
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U.S. President Donald Trump led dignitaries Wednesday in honoring American evangelist Billy Graham, whose body laid in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, following his death last week at the age of 99.

Trump said the life of Graham and his conservative Christian message "changed our country, and it changed, in fact, the entire world."

The U.S. leader said, "We can only imagine the number of lives touched by the preaching and the prayers of Billy Graham - the hearts he changed, the sorrows he eased, and the joy he brought to so many. The testimony is endless."

WATCH: Trump Leads Tribute to Late Evangelist Billy Graham

Trump Leads Tribute to Late Evangelist Billy Graham
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"Today, we give thanks for this extraordinary life," Trump said. "And it's very fitting that we do so right here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where the memory of the American people is enshrined."

With Graham's pine casket positioned in the center of the Rotunda, the man known as "America's Pastor" is getting a rare honor, last given to civil rights icon Rosa Parks upon her death in 2005.

Members of Graham's family joined congressional leaders, as well as Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, to watch as the casket was carried into the Capitol.

After the short ceremony, members of the public started to stroll by the casket to pay their respects.

Graham's funeral will take place Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, which Trump plans to attend.

The evangelist was a spiritual adviser and acquaintance of every U.S. president from Harry Truman in the 1940s to Barack Obama in the 21st century. Graham was often asked to pray or preach at public national U.S. events, such as inaugurations of new presidents.

He preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries and territories. He staged massive rallies, called the Billy Graham Crusades, that were attended by thousands of people, and reached millions through television, radio and satellite.

Graham's Christian rallies presaged that of other U.S. televangelists, although none has reached his prominence.

But he was not above criticism. He generally stayed on the sidelines of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and did not attend marches that included many religious leaders - something he later said he regretted.

Graham was caught on tape telling his close friend President Richard Nixon that "Jews don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country." He was remorseful and apologized for his remarks when they were revealed.

Graham's literal interpretation of the Bible led him to oppose gay rights and condemn homosexuality as a "sinister form of perversion."

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