I haven’t written much about the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. Today was his funeral in Boston and graveside service at Arlington Cemetery. We had a busy personal day with a whole series of activities that kept us away from the television for most of it.
But one moment we happened to see really captured my attention. It was the text of a letter Ted Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict, just a few weeks before his death. Personally delivered by President Obama during his early-July audience with the Pope, it was read at the graveside by Cardinal McCarrick.
It seems worth passing along, precisely because of its honest and poignant reflection on life, death, politics, faith, and the desire of a dying man for some kind of closure.
You might like reading it too. The full text of Cardinal McCarrick’s remarks are here. The portions of the letter he read are below.
To Pope Benedict XVI, from Senator Ted Kennedy:
“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 on our church, and would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”