I'm compiling here statements from religious leaders about the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Check back for updates -- I'll add the statements as they come in.
From Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston:
Today we mourn the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and we extend our heartfelt prayers and sincere condolences to his wife Victoria and their children, Kara, Edward, Patrick, Curran and Caroline. Senator Kennedy was blessed with a dedicated and loving family who stood by his side, particularly during the past year as he faced his illness with courage, dignity and strength.
We join with his colleagues in Congress and the people of Massachusetts in reflecting on his life and his commitment to public service. For nearly half a century, Senator Kennedy was often a champion for the poor, the less fortunate and those seeking a better life. Across Massachusetts and the nation, his legacy will be carried on through the lives of those he served.
We pray for the repose of his soul and that his family finds comfort and consolation in this difficult time.
From Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies:
Like so many people, I mourn the loss of Ted Kennedy. Ted and his brothers were heroes to me, giants in the fight to make a better world of equality, justice and caring.
I’ve never forgotten the first time I met Ted Kennedy. I was 40 years old and brand new to Boston and Ted Kennedy appeared at a CJP event. Steve Grossman introduced us and we spoke. Actually Ted Kennedy spoke - I was speechless. I was speechless because Ted Kennedy was the living embodiment of my best dreams for America and for the world. He was a great leader all by himself but also a symbol of something that powerfully changed my life and the aspirations of my generation.
These changes started with JFK. I never met John F. Kennedy though his picture was on my desk from the day he was murdered in 1963 until I graduated from social work school in 1970. I handed out campaign fliers on the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road in the Bronx when he ran for President. I was 13 and it was 1960. His election taught me something about ideas and the possibility of change.
I did meet Robert Kennedy. During the middle of the Cuban missile crisis, he came to speak at a Democratic Party fundraiser at the Concourse Plaza Hotel where I was working at the time. I was 15 and scared out of my mind.
Robert kept the dream alive. When he ran for the US Senate from New York in 1965, I chaired Students for Kennedy at City College, and I worked for him again when he ran for President in 1968…..a last hope for peace and justice at a time when I was obsessed with both. His assassination, like his brother’s, was shattering.
By the time I met Ted Kennedy, most of my political energy was focused on our Jewish community and its hopes and dreams, for Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry, for a strong Israel, and for justice for the poor and forgotten of our community and of the broader community within which we live.
And whenever the Jewish community needed help, Ted Kennedy was always there. Ted Kennedy was a tireless advocate for Soviet Jewry and went to the Soviet Union to meet with refuseniks on many occasions. Ted Kennedy advocated for their freedom and he advocated for Israel. Through war and peace he always listened. He was always there. He never refused a meeting and he always stood up for Israel.
Ted Kennedy despised anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred bigotry and racism. Ted Kennedy was our own Massachusetts hero and a symbol of the determination of Americans and Jews everywhere for justice and righteousness.
If his brothers were the symbol of the dream that drove and continues to drive my generation, Ted represented the hard work required, day in and day out to turn those dreams into reality. Boston, Massachusetts, our people, the Jews of Greater Boston and all the oppressed of the earth will all miss him.
Our condolences are extended to his entire family.
From the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA):
I am saddened by the news of Senator Edward Kennedy’s passing and express my condolences to the Kennedy family. Our country has lost a great leader who tirelessly defended the basic rights of all Americans and stood on the side of those people who were most vulnerable. He devoted his decades-long career in the U.S. Senate to advancing the causes of economic justice, immigration reform, and universal health care. His dedication to making government more just and compassionate has been an inspiration to Americans of many faith traditions. Senator Kennedy had a gift for reaching out to religious people and lifting up our shared commitment to equality and the betterment of humanity. We can honor Senator Kennedy by carrying forward his legacy of working on behalf of those who are marginalized in this country. We must – and we will – continue advocating for the living wage, immigration reform, and health care for all. By giving our resources and commitment to the causes of fairness and equality, we move toward realizing the American dream to which Kennedy dedicated his years of public service.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) is deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy. A model of dedication to the Commonwealth and the nation as a whole, Senator Kennedy embodied the values that our community stands for - social and economic justice, and the fair treatment for all Americans, including its most vulnerable citizens. His ability to create unlikely alliances allowed for a legacy of significant accomplishments in the Senate that have improved the lives of countless Americans. Senator Kennedy was also a true and loyal friend to the State of Israel and provided unwavering support to her in her quest for peace over the years. His leadership in these areas and more will be sorely missed.
Nancy K. Kaufman, Executive Director, said, "Ted Kennedy, who was my Senator from the time I could vote, exhibited his commitment to core Jewish values. Senator Kennedy has worked tirelessly with us on major issues such as health care reform, care for the poor, disabled, and elderly, advocacy for former Soviet Jewry, and support for Israel." Ms. Kaufman stated, "We will all miss his passion and his commitment to democratic issues and values, and we must continue his legacy of advocacy for social justice. May his memory be for a blessing always."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family and all the individuals who were touched by the work and compassion of Senator Kennedy.
The Anti-Defamation League New England mourns the death of long time friend Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) following his long and courageous battle with brain cancer.
We mourn the passing of the Senator, a great American, a master legislator and a passionate champion of our nation’s democratic values and fundamental commitment to equality and fair treatment to all.
Senator Kennedy’s leadership on immigration reform was instrumental. Upon the 50th anniversary of his brother, President John F. Kennedy’s essay, "A Nation of Immigrants," ADL reissued the book. Senator Kennedy wrote in the introduction, "The urgent issue before us is about the future of America. It is about our pride for our immigrant past and our pride for our immigrant future."
Esta Epstein, Regional Board Chair and Derrek Shulman, Regional Director praised the work, legacy and the path that Senator Kennedy brought to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the world. "We will continue to champion his values and work as we move forward."
From Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization:
In the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential elections, the Democrats were roundly accused of losing the "moral values voters" in America, and of being the party of "secularists" who were hostile to faith and religion. The very first Democrat to call me and ask to talk about that accusation and how to change the moral debate in America was Ted Kennedy. He invited me to his home, where he, and his wife Vicki, engaged me in a long and very thoughtful conversation, into the night, about the relationship between faith, morality, and politics. Their own deep Catholic faith was evident and their articulation of it very impressive. Our discussion was not partisan at all--it was not about how to win religion back for the Democrats. Rather, we focused on the great moral issues facing the nation, and how we as people of faith needed to respond to them.
On the occasion of his death, I pray that God may now move us as a nation to address the greatest commitment of Senator Kennedy's life--the need for a comprehensive reform of the health care system in America--as a deeply moral issue and one that calls forth the very best that is within us. May we honor the life and death of Senator Edward Kennedy by laying aside the rancor, lies, fear, and even hate that has come to dominate the health care debate in America this summer; and regain our moral compass by recovering the moral core of this debate: that too many Americans are hurting and suffering in a broken and highly inequitable health care system; and that it is our moral obligation to repair and reform it--Now.
It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Senator Edward Kennedy. Senator Kennedy, a man of deep and abiding Catholic faith, dedicated his life to noble public service. In pursuing the common good and advocating for human dignity around the globe, Senator Kennedy’s 46 year career was a reflection of the core values of the Catholic Social Tradition. He championed the cause of justice for the poor, the immigrant, and the most vulnerable and throughout his career demonstrated the value of civility, compassion, and compromise on matters of critical public concern. May Senator Kennedy’s deep faith and commitment to the common good serve as a model for us all.
From Catholic Democrats:
Catholic Democrats mourns the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), one of the most important Catholic political leaders in our country's history. The third longest serving member of the Senate, Kennedy's life exemplified a commitment to public service. His irreplaceable brand of leadership in Congress and to the nation led to the passage of unprecedented landmark legislation that covered a broad range of social justice issues which reflected both Catholic Social Teaching and his deep personal faith. He touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people, providing for their fundamental human needs, opening doors of opportunity, and helping create a more just society.
"Senator Kennedy's Catholicism was at the core of his identity," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "The common thread that runs through everything he accomplished was his belief in building things for the benefit of others, particularly those most in need. I believe this is the essence of being a good Catholic, and I think it's right at the heart of Senator Kennedy's entire legacy."
"The 'Lion of the Senate', Senator Kennedy brought the passion of his beliefs to, in his own words, "all those whose cares have been our concern" while at the same time reconciling differences between his colleagues from both sides of the aisle. He was both a fighter and a healer. He fought for universal health care, "the cause of my lifetime" he said, until the very end of his life. Both Republican and Democratic leaders will greatly miss his leadership in making universal health care a reality," said Whelan, a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"Senator Kennedy's passing is an immeasurable loss to our country and the world. He inspired liberals and earned the respect of conservatives. He was the conscience of our nation, particularly on the necessity of providing health care to all and on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "His remarkable life's journey - one of overcoming insurmountable challenges through faith - provides inspiration for all of us in our own personal journeys and in serving the common good."
"We offer our most heartfelt prayers to the Senator's family in this time of sadness. There will never be another Ted Kennedy," said Whelan.
(Photo of Cardinal O'Malley taken in Cuba by AFP/Getty Images on August 18, 2009. Photo of Barry Shrage courtesy of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Photo of Rev. Morales courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Photo of Nancy Kaufman taken in Boston by Janet Knott of the Globe staff on August 19, 1999. Photo of Jim Wallis taken in Boston by Wiqan Ang for the Boston Globe on February 11, 2008.)
Harvey Cox, the Hollis professor of divinity at Harvard University, marks his retirement by asserting a little-used right of his professorship -- to graze a cow in Harvard Yard. Photo, by Barry Chin of the Globe staff, taken on Sept. 10, 2009 in Cambridge, Mass.
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