Nation Bids Final Farewell to Edward Kennedy

Hundreds of mourners bid their final farewell to Edward "Ted" Kennedy on Saturday, capping three days of tributes and ceremonies.

Kennedy, who died last Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at the age of 77, was eulogized by the president, who said the world would long remember the youngest child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy as "the heir to a weighty legacy, a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate."

Over the course of nearly five decades, the nine-term senator had a hand in passing nearly 1,000 laws, and penned more than 300 laws himself. At the time of his death, Kennedy was the third-longest-serving senator in U.S. history and the second most senior member of the Senate.

"Ted Kennedy's life work was not to champion the causes of those with wealth or power or special connections," President Obama said in the eulogy he delivered during Saturday's two-hour Catholic funeral Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. "It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding. He was given the gift of time that his brothers were not, and he used that gift to touch as many lives and right as many wrongs as the years would allow."

Though he was considered by many to be a liberal icon, Kennedy still received words of respect from a number of conservatives, who noted the Democratic senator for his passion and the bipartisanship and civility that he brought into political debates.

Kennedy's death prompted warm remarks from leaders at the conservative Family Research Council, the GOP, as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which said Kennedy's commitment to public service throughout his career will be remembered for years to come.

"We pray for the Kennedy family as they grieve the loss of the one they loved so much and ask God to grant them His peace and comfort during these difficult days," BGEA president and CEO Franklin Graham wrote on behalf of his father, Billy Graham, and the entire Graham family.

Not all, however, were so kind.

John-Henry Westen, chief editor of LifeSiteNews.com, said Kennedy "betrayed the most fundamental moral teachings of the faith."

Stephen Phelan of Human Life International, meanwhile, said that while Catholic faithful "must, as a matter of precept, pray for the salvation of heretical Catholics like Senator Edward Kennedy … we do not have to praise him let alone extol him with the full honors of a public Catholic funeral and all the adulation that attends such an event."

"We, as rational persons, must judge his actions, and his actions were not at all in line with one who values and carefully applies Church teaching on weighty matters," Phelan added, while acknowledging that it is "up to God to judge Senator Kennedy's soul."

In less critical remarks, Dr. Alveda King, pastoral associate of Priests for Life and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said she wants to remember Kennedy for the times that he "compassionately and consistently fought for civil rights."

"In 1971, he wrote that every human being, wanted or unwanted, had the right to be born. He later changed his position and supported and even sponsored pro-abortion legislation. There were many tragedies in the Senator's life, but to me, one of the worst is that he stopped supporting the civil rights of those in the womb," she stated.

Adding to King's remarks, Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said his organization would join in prayer "for God's forgiveness for all who tolerate" the brutal killing of unborn children.

As a senator, Kennedy came to be known for his unwavering support for the gay community and abortion rights.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, had given Kennedy a perfect 100 percent on all of its congressional scorecards.