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Sen. Edward Kennedy Interred At Arlington Cemetery; Cardinal McCarrick Reveals Moving, Intimate Exchange Of Letters Between Senator Kennedy, Vatican

Aired August 29, 2009 - 20:00   ET


CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK, ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS: May I, for just a moment, be the voice of so many all around the world, to pay a final tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy and to offer our heartfelt condolence to his wife Vicki, to his sister Jean, to his children and grandchildren, and to all the Kennedy family; as also to that extended family that must probably include most of America.

May I also add a word that we who were privileged to watch the very beautiful funeral mass this morning had to be touched by the wonderful part in that liturgy, played by the younger generation of Kennedys, the warm and very personal tribute in the eulogies of Teddy's sons and even that of the president of the United States, whose warmth and whose friendship for Ted is obviously so powerful. That together with the splendid homily of Father Hession, Ted's parish priest, made our farewell to Senator Kennedy unforgettable.

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 short one again. They called him the Lion of the Senate, and indeed, that is what he was. His raw 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 great 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'm 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life.

I have been blessed to be 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 provides 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 elected 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'm 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'll 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've always tried to be a faithful Catholic, Your Holiness, and though I have fallen short through human failings, I've 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."

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, and until the end of time, Amen.

And now let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, by your own three days in the tomb, you hallow the graves of all who believe in you, and so made the grave a sign of hope that promises resurrection, even as it claims our mortal bodies.

Lord, grant that our brother may sleep here in peace until you awaken him in glory. For you are the resurrection and the life. Then he will see you face to face and in your light will see light and know the splendor of God for you live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

I'm going to ask Father Gerry Creedon, an old friend of the family, to do the intercessions for us. He will be saying some prayers and then adding, Lord, in your mercy, as our response is, Lord, hear our prayer.

FATHER GERRY CREEDON: Lord, in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

Gracious Lord, for give the sins of those who is have died in Christ, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Remember all the good they've done, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Welcome them into eternal life, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Let us pray for those who mourn, comfort them in their grief, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Lighten their sense of loss with your presence, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Increase their faith, strengthen their hope, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Let us pray also for ourselves and our own pilgrimage through life. Keep us faithful in your service, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

CREEDON: Kindle in our hearts a longing for your kingdom of justice and peace, a longing for heaven, Lord, in your mercy.

AUDIENCE: Hear our prayer.

MC CARRICK: In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother Ted, and we commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. May the Lord bless him and keep him, may the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious to him. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon him and give him peace.

Let us join now in praying that prayer that Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, their kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we for give those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

And now I will say again the prayers that his Eminence Cardinal O'Malley ended the Act of Commendation, because they are fitting for this moment, as well.

Before we go our separate ways, let us take leave of our Brother Ted, may our farewell express our affection for him. May it ease our sadness and strengthen our hope. One day, we shall joyfully greet him again when the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys even death itself.

Into your hands, Father of Mercies, we commend our Brother Ted in the sure and certain hope that together with all who have died in Christ, he will rise with him on the last day. We give you thanks for the blessings which you bestowed upon him in this life. They are signs to us of your goodness and of our fellowship with the saints in Christ.

Merciful Lord, turn toward us and listen to our prayers. Open the gates of paradise for your servant. And help us, who remain, to comfort one another with assurances of faith until we meet in Christ and are with you and with our Brother Teddy forever.

We ask this through Christ our lord.


Let us now bow our heads and pray for God's blessing. Merciful Lord, you know the anguish of the sorrowful. You are attentive to the prayers of the humble. Hear your people who cry out to you in their need. And strengthen their hope in our -- in your lasting goodness. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.


And may the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and may almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.


And now I know that four of Teddy's grandchildren are going to come, and be with us, and say something about Grandpa.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We see the lightning -- actually, I think we're listening to some of the grandchildren. So let's see if we can hear them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When most people think of Ted Kennedy, they think of -- I can't see anything. I can't see anything.

When most people think of Ted Kennedy, they think about the man who changed the lives of millions of people by fighting for better health care. When I think about him, vibrant memories of sailing, laughing, Thanksgiving dinner, talking on the front porch and playing with Splash, come to mind.

To me, all the things he has done to change the world are just icing on my Grandpa cake of a truly miraculous person. You see, my Grandpa was really a kid. If you ever saw him conducting the Boston Pops, that's what he was like all the time with me. He knew how to joke, laugh and have fun like the time we played games with all the cousins at my 14th birthday party. I remember him smiling, playing and dancing that day. And I'll never forget everyone's smile that he had made.

I will always remember the times we spent sailing on Mya (ph) when I could tell that he was the happiest in the world, even when he was yelling, "Get that fisherman up!" But what I will miss the most are the times I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and would go to the front porch, where my Grandpa would be sitting with Splash and gazing out to sea. It would be just us on the porch for a while, and we talked and talked. And I would get a feeling that the world was just right. It was me and him sitting on his porch watching a new day unfold as we stared into the sea of freedom and possibilities. I love you so much, Grandpa, and I always will.

GRACE ALLEN: Hi. I'm Grace Allen. I'm the second oldest grandchild. I just want to say a few words about my Grandpa.

Our favorite time of the year was Thanksgiving. And because we were all together as a family, sailing and eating together at the table, all of us, including Caroline Kennedy and her family, and I just want to give thanks to my Grandpa because he's the best Grandpa I've ever had, and the best in the world.


BLITZER: They're wrapping up the service at Arlington National Cemetery. We want to inform our viewers why we're not seeing the pictures. This was supposed to happen at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and when it's still daylight. It's now well past sunset. It's almost 8:30 p.m. on the East Coast, and this was not lit, obviously, for a nighttime burial. It was supposed to be during the day but we can certainly hear what's going on, moving remarks, from some of those grandkids.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're told Mrs. Kennedy is being escorted out now. The images, obviously, very dark, these are pool pictures. We're getting occasional reports from the pool. There you see some vehicles coming out. So it would appear as if members of the Kennedy family are slowly leaving. We had thought some may go by the eternal flame, go by the grave of Robert Kennedy.

At this point, we're just kind of in the dark, and trying to see what we can see.

BLITZER: It was a moving service that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick performed. He is the archbishop emeritus of Washington, and it was amazing because, Anderson, we actually heard from Senator Kennedy himself, in a letter, that he wrote personally to Pope Benedict XVI that he asked President Obama to hand carry and to deliver to the pope. A letter that we did not know its contents until Cardinal McCarrick just read it. And we didn't know whether the Vatican responded to that letter that the Senator Kennedy wrote, and President Obama delivered. Yet, there was a response delivered some two weeks later and it was a moving response.

COOPER: There had been a report there had been no response.

BLITZER: Right. In "Time" magazine wrote a piece saying that that letter was delivered and the Vatican ignored Senator Kennedy, which Cardinal McCarrick clearly wanted to clarify and explain was not accurate, that the Vatican did respond to Senator Kennedy.

We heard a very emotional, Roland Martin, a very emotional statement of his faith from Senator Kennedy, himself. It was read at his gravesite, but it was written awhile ago and delivered to Pope Benedict XVI.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He really talked in that letter about his faith, how it has sustained him. But he also owned up to falling short. Bible says all sinners fall short of the glory of God. But also he laid out I think those critical points that people of faith also focus on, helping the poor, health care, those who are oppressed, those who are downtrodden. Obviously he did not speak to the issue that many folks have criticized him in the Catholic Church, the issue of being pro-choice, but clearly a strong, strong letter.

COOPER: There you see ...


COOPER: It is Vicki.

MARTIN: That's the daughter. That's the daughter. That's not Vicki.

COOPER: That's not Vicki.

BLITZER: That's Vicki's daughter?

COOPER: That's Vicki's son, I think, sitting next to her on the right. We're told that Patrick Kennedy has gone to visit the grave of Robert Kennedy.

BLITZER: Only a few feet away from his father's gravesite now.

COOPER: About 100 feet.

MARTIN: I thought that was an amazing letter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the last word. It was a declaration of his faith, what he believed, his political issues were also laid out in there, and I think to a certain extent Ted Kennedy had a very moving day, got the last word.

BLITZER: And it was really -- because when you think about it, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick is the representative of the Vatican in Washington, D.C. Until he retired a couple years ago, he was the representative of the Vatican in Washington. He was clearly authorized by the Kennedy family, and the Vatican, to read that exchange, the letter that Senator Kennedy wrote to the pontiff, the letter that President Obama delivered, hand carried to Pope Benedict XVI. And he was authorized to read the Vatican's response to Senator Kennedy.

COOPER: And it was a letter written by a man on the cusp of death who knew it and looking back on his life, back on his faith and looking forward to the after live, which he believed in.

MARTIN: And he also spoke to this is what I, as a man of faith, has accomplished. But he also said when he fell short, he always believed in the foundations of the Catholic Church and its faith.

BLITZER: If, John King - if it's accurate to say that even after his death, we heard from Senator Kennedy.

I don't know if John King is hearing me.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it was a quite a moving -- sorry, Wolf. Quite a moving service. This is an interesting scene right now. We have had a romantic what if, what might have been relationship with Jack and Bobby Kennedy. We will have a very real and a long relationship with Ted Kennedy. It is so appropriate that he is at this place now, side by side with the brothers, the beginning of Camelot was football and games, the end of this generation of Camelot is three brothers on a majestic hill overlooking the capital city they loved so much.

BLITZER: John King, thanks so much. I want to thank all our contributors. Anderson this has really been a remarkable few days since Wednesday. Since the death of Senator Kennedy, we've watched this process continue until this moment.

Now we see the family and friends of Senator Kennedy getting ready to leave.

I want to thank you and thank all of our contributors, and I want to alert our viewers to something very, very special that is about to begin right now here on CNN. We're going to get a unique look at Senator Edward Kennedy. This HBO documentary entitled "Teddy, In His Own Words" has some truly amazing moments that have rarely been seen before.

It's put together with home movies and photographs as well as TV news, video and still photographs from Senator Kennedy's long career. Senator's commentary comes from both public and private recordings. Here now the HBO documentary, "Teddy, In His Own Words."