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US President Donald Trump joins mourners at funeral of Billy Graham

06 March 2018

The Protestant preacher known as "America's pastor" will be remembered at a funeral Friday under a large white tent evoking his first "Canvas Cathedral" revival almost 70 years ago.

The Rev. Billy Graham's funeral began Friday with a rousing song and heartfelt words from his adult children in the culmination of more than a week of tributes to "America's Pastor".

The president is not scheduled to speak at the funeral at Graham's namesake library in Charlotte.

The noontime service, in many ways Graham's final crusade, will be streamed live.

The funeral message was delivered by Rev. Franklin Graham, one of Billy Graham's sons, who also serves as president and CEO of the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse. "There weren't two Billy Grahams", local newspaper the Charlotte Observer quoted him as saying. Trump spoke earlier in the week in the Capitol Rotunda where Graham lay in honor.

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"The private ceremony and interment will be held after the funeral service, at the foot of the cross-shaped Prayer Garden on the northeast side of the Billy Graham Library", the release said.

The funeral planning began a decade ago with Billy Graham himself, and grew into his family's desire to capture the feeling of the crusades that made the world's best-known Protestant preacher of his era.

Billy Graham died February 21 aged 99, after a lifetime spent preaching and advising presidents.

Like Graham's famous crusades, the funeral featured singers who had shared his stage in years past: Linda McCrary-Fisher, Michael W. Smith and the Gaither Vocal Band. "But I think when he died, that was something very strategic from Heaven's point of view", said his daughter Anne Graham Lotz.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were among some 2,000 people to attend the private ceremony at the Billy Graham Library in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Mr Graham, who died last month at his home in Montreat, North Carolina at 99 years old, had suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.

He praised his father for the love he had for his late mother and noted that "the Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadium was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home". Graham was buried in a simple wooden casket constructed by inmates serving life terms at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Graham's headstone will carry his name, dates of birth and death and the inscription "Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ" above the Bible reference "John 14:6".

"Franklin, it seems to me, has his eyes open a little wider with respect to Trumps' foibles" than Billy Graham and his wife did with Nixon, she said.

Warren said Graham was a major influence on how he learned how to preach. Officials expect about 200 family members to attend the interment, which will be closed to the public and media.

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US President Donald Trump joins mourners at funeral of Billy Graham