Tales from the Trail

The Pope blessed Ted Kennedy

KENNEDY/As a divorcee who was pro-choice on abortion, the United States’s most prominent Catholic politician was not exactly in the Vatican’s good books.

Yet Pope Benedict XVI blessed the terminally ill Senator Edward Kennedy, according to correspondence made public at his burial in Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.

Kennedy, whose political career was marred by scandal, asked for the Pope’s prayers in a letter that was handed to the pontiff by President Barack Obama in Rome on July 10.

“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,” Kennedy wrote.

“I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.”

The First Draft: Obama and the Pope

POPE-ENCYCLICAL/President Barack Obama heads to Africa on Friday on the final stop of a weeklong trip that included visits to Russia and Italy, but before leaving Rome he will visit with Pope Benedict.

Obama has had an uneasy relationship with some Roman Catholics because of his support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, which the church opposes.

He faced protesters when he gave a graduation speech at Notre Dame University, although his call for a “fair-minded” discussion on abortion earned several standing ovations.