Benedict XVI Sent Note Ahead of Shriver's Death

Assured Family of His Prayers, Closeness

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 19, 2009 ( The day before Eunice Kennedy Shriver died, Benedict XVI sent a letter to her family assuring them of his prayers and spiritual closeness.

The letter, sent Aug. 10 through Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, assured the family that the Pope was «holding close to his heart Eunice as she is called home to eternal life.»

Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy and the founder of the Special Olympics, died Aug. 11 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She was 88.

«It is the Holy Father’s fervent prayer that the good Lord, who is never outdone in generosity, will grant this woman of ardent faith and generous public service the reward of her many labors, particularly on behalf of those who are physically and mentally challenged,» the note said.

A member of one of the most well-known political families in the United States, Shriver is the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were both assassinated while in office in the 1960s.

Her brother Edward «Ted» Kennedy is currently serving his ninth term as a senator from Massachusetts.

Her husband was a vice presidential candidate in 1972, and her daughter, Maria Shriver, is married to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Shriver founded the Special Olympics in 1968 with the objective of promoting sports among persons who are mentally disabled. She is credited with changing the way society treats the developmentally disabled.

Her interest in persons with handicaps is attributed to her relationship with her older sister Rosemary, who was left mentally disabled after a failed prefrontal lobotomy was performed on her at the age of 23.

Shriver, a lifelong Democrat, was also an adamant supporter of the right to life. During the presidential campaign in 1992, she and her husband joined many other pro-life Democrats in signing a full-page ad in the New York Times protesting the Democratic Party’s support of abortion rights.

«We can choose to reaffirm our respect for human life,» the ad said. «We can choose to extend once again the mantle of protection to all members of the human family, including the unborn. We can choose to provide effective care of mothers and children.»

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