After Kennedy's Death: Silence from the Pope

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There was a poignant footnote to President Obama's historic July 10 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Behind closed doors in the papal library, Obama handed Benedict a letter that Senator Edward Kennedy had asked him to personally deliver to the Pontiff. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later told reporters that nobody — not even the President — knew the contents of the sealed missive. Obama asked Benedict to pray for Kennedy and called the ailing Senator afterward to fill him in on his encounter with the 82-year-old Pope.

The letter, most likely already resealed and tucked away in the Vatican archives, was probably just a dying Catholic's request for a papal blessing. In the eyes of the traditionalist wing of the Church, however, Kennedy should have been asking the Pope for forgiveness. The Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported Kennedy's death, praising his work on civil rights and fighting poverty, but noted that his record was marred by his stance on abortion. As of yet, unlike some other world leaders, Pope Benedict has not commented or issued an official communiqué in response to Kennedy's death. The niceties of international diplomacy do not require the Pope to issue a statement on the death of a non-head of state. Earlier in August, when the Senator's sister Eunice was dying the Papal Nuncio to the U.S. delivered a letter to her family saying the Pope was praying for her, her children and her husband...

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