Family Mass for Edward Kennedy

A family Mass was held in Cape Cod today for Senator Edward Kennedy. His body was then taken in a motorcade to Boston where his coffin will be placed for public viewing ahead of a Requiem Mass next Wednesday, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Kennedy died at 11.30pm on Tuesday at his Massachusetts home on Cape Cod after a year-long battle with a malignant brain tumor. His family was at his side, together with Catholic priest, Father Patrick Tarrant.

In a statement announcing the news, the family said:

Edward M Kennedy - the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply - died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port.

We've lost the irreplaceable centre of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.
We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all.

He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him.

President Barack Obama is expected to give an address at the Requiem Mass. 

After the funeral,  Kennedy will be buried next to his brothers, John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy, at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Cardinal Theodore E McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is to officiate at the private service.

The charismatic senator was the leader of one of America's great political dynasties, following the assassinations of his brothers in 1963 and 1968.

Kennedy, stood firmly on the side of the Catholic Church on a wide range of issues from immigration reform to the minimum wage during his 47 years as a US senator.

But he ran into criticism from church leaders over his views on abortion. He opposed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, supported Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that lifted most state restrictions on abortion; and sponsored legislation to limit protests outside abortion clinics and to permit the use of federal funds for stem cell research.

Earlier in his Senate career he did not support abortion. According a 1971 letter published by the CNS he wrote:

"While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life..

"Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old," he added. "When history looks back at this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."

In earlier years, he championed a national health insurance plan that church leaders supported, except for its inclusion of abortion as a covered health service.

Since Obama's election he had supported the president's push for passage of health care reform this year. He helped draft the Affordable Health Choices Act under consideration by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. It would require individuals to purchase health insurance except in hardship cases.

Addressing a Senate committee in 1993, Sister Maryanna Coyle, a Sister of Charity who then chaired the board of trustees of the Catholic Health Association, praised Kennedy for his longtime support of a US health care system that covers everyone.

"CHA shares your belief ... that the goal of universal health care coverage is and must remain the one non-negotiable item throughout the coming debate on health care reform," she said.

Kennedy was also co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and legislation raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.

He was a vocal opponent of both the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq and a strong supporter of the civil rights movement, increased federal funding of public schools and early education programs such as Head Start, universal health coverage, the rights of workers to organize and to earn a living wage, and immigration reform that would lead toward citizenship.

In a televised tribute on Wednesday, President Obama said Edward Kennedy had achieved "extraordinary good" and was "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy".

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