At Kennedy burial, notes to and from pope
Aug 29, 2009
One last surprise from the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy: at his burial service in Washington tonight, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick read excerpts from the exchange of letters between the dying senator and the Vatican.
At Kennedy burial, notes to and from pope
The Boston Globe
Posted by Michael Paulson August 29, 2009 09:07 PM
One last surprise from the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy: at his burial service in Washington tonight, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick read excerpts from the exchange of letters between the dying senator and the Vatican. The letters are extremely revealing, both of the importance of Catholic faith and the Catholic church to Kennedy, and of the pastoral response from the pope even to a politician with whom the church had serious disagreements.
Here is the text of Cardinal McCarrick's remarks:
May I, for a moment, be the voice of so many, all around the nation and indeed all over the world, as we pay a final tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy and offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vicki, to his children, and to all the Kennedy family . On learning of his death last Wednesday morning, tributes to his half-century of leadership in American life and politics came from all over the globe. May I offer my own again.
They called him, 'The Lion of the Senate," and indeed that is what he was. His roar, and his zeal for what he believed, made a difference in our nation’s life. Sometimes, of course, we who were his friends and had affection for him would get mad at him when he roared at what we believed was the wrong side of an issue, but we always knew, and were always touched by his passion for the underdog, for the rights of working people, for better education, for adequate health care for every American. His legacy will surely place him among the dozen or so greats in the history of the Senate of the United States.
Shortly before he died, Senator Kennedy wrote a very moving letter to the Holy Father, and took advantage of the historic visit to the Vatican of President Obama to ask the President if he would deliver it personally, which Mr. Obama gladly did. A couple of weeks later, the pope replied with a fatherly message of concern for the senator’s illness, and a prayer for his progress.
When Vicki and I and others began to talk about the organization of this brief service, the happy thought emerged of using part of these two letters to commemorate the faith of Ted Kennedy, and the warm and paternal spirit of Pope Benedict XVI. I want to quote from that letter. It begins:
"Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. As a man of deep faith himself, he understands how important my Roman Catholic faith is to me, and I am so deeply grateful to him.
"I hope this letter finds you in good health. I pray that you have all of God’s blessings as you lead our Church and inspire our world during these challenging times.
"I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old, and preparing for the next passage of life.
"I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful family, and both of my parents, particularly my mother, kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives. That gift of faith has sustained, and nurtured, and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.
"I want you to know, Your Holiness, that in my nearly 50 years of elective office, I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor, and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Those are the issues that have motivated me and have been the focus of my work as a United States Senator.
"I also want you to know that, even though I am ill, I am committed to do everything I can to achieve access to health care for everyone in my country. This has been the political cause of my life. I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field and I will continue to advocate for it as my colleagues in the Senate and I work to develop an overall national health policy that guarantees health care for everyone.
"I have always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I have never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God’s blessings, on you and our church, and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."
Two weeks later, the reply came back from the Vatican, and in part, it read as follows:
"The Holy Father has read the letter which you entrusted to President Obama, who kindly presented it to him during their recent meeting. He was saddened to know of your illness, and asked me to assure you of his concern and his spiritual closeness. He is particularly grateful for your promise of prayers for him, and for the needs of our universal church.
"His Holiness prays that in the days ahead you may be sustained in faith and hope, and granted the precious grace of joyful surrender to the will of God, our merciful father. He invokes upon you the consolation and peace promised by the risen savior to all who share in his sufferings, and trust in his promise of eternal life.
"Commending you and the members of your family to the loving intervention of the blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of wisdom, comfort and strength in the Lord."
That's the end of the quotation.
With the prayers of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, added to our own prayers, we entrust the body of Edward Moore Kennedy, Senator Ted, to his resting place, until the Lord calls us forth, until the end of time. Amen.