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In recent years, friends say, Mr. Kennedy had come to lean heavily on his Roman Catholic faith. In eulogizing his mother, Rose Kennedy, in 1995, he spoke of the comfort of religious beliefs. “She sustained us in the saddest times by her faith in God, which was the greatest gift she gave us,” Mr. Kennedy said, his voice stammering.
He attended Mass every day in the year after his mother’s death and continued to attend regularly, often a few times a week.
The Rev. Mark Hession, the priest at the Kennedys’ parish on the Cape, made regular visits to the Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in the living room every Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family in prayer after the death of his sister Eunice on Aug. 11. He died comfortably and in no apparent pain, friends and staff members said.
His children had expected him to hold on longer — Mr. Kennedy’s son Patrick and daughter Kara could not get back to Hyannis Port in time from California and Washington.
But the senator’s condition took a turn Tuesday night and a priest — the Rev. Patrick Tarrant of Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, Mass. — was called to his bedside. Mr. Kennedy spent his last hours in prayer, Father Tarrant told a Boston television station, WCVB-TV.
Mr. Kennedy had told friends recently that he was looking forward to a “reunion” with his seven departed siblings, particularly his brothers, whose lives had been cut short.
“When he gets there, he can say ‘I did it, I carried the torch,’ ” Mr. Delahunt said. “ ‘I carried it all the way.’ ”