Robert Kennedy, with his wife Ethel in the background, addresses his supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic presidential primary on June 5. Minutes later he was shot. Religious News Service photo

The Register Archives: Bishop pays tribute to slain Kennedy

  • June 1, 2018

June 5 marks the 50th anniversary of the fatal shooting of Sen. Robert Kennedy, less than five years after the murder of his brother President John Kennedy and just two months after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down. The 42-year-old Catholic senator was the leading candidate for Democratic nomination for the presidency at the time he was shot in Los Angeles by Sirhan Sirhan, and his death 26 hours later prompted mourning around the world. The next day in Toronto, Bishop F.A. Marrocco eulogized Kennedy at a memorial Mass, as reported in The Register of June 15, 1968: 

“Senator Robert Kennedy’s death is a story of success, not of failure; his death is a triumph, not a defeat; it is a true sacrifice, not an execution.”

These words were the keynote of the eulogy by Bishop F.A. Marrocco as he addressed 2,000 people of many faiths who attended the memorial Mass for Sen. Kennedy in crowded St. Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto, on Friday afternoon last week. 

Bishop Marrocco was also the special speaker at the requiem Mass for President J.F. Kennedy at the Cathedral in Toronto in November 1963. 

“There is no question that his passing seems a senseless tragedy, an extravagant waste of great potentiality, an irrational shortening of a purposeful life. But as Christians we must not allow our grief to stifle our spiritual training and powers.

 “We mourn the passing of Robert Kennedy. We realize the horror of the way he died. We understand the sense of futility which oppresses the spirit of people all over the world. But we must be sure to see a bright, a useful and hopeful side to his death,” said the bishop. 

“As a human being, as a good man, he is blessed with immortality. By the grace of God his life has been transformed, not destroyed. As he so abruptly leaves an earthly dwelling, an eternal home awaits him in Heaven. Surely he is enjoying a reunion with the late President and other relatives who preceded him into eternity.”

The speaker said that Robert Kennedy walked in the footsteps of Christ and of many fellowmen in the way he lived. He believed in truth, he upheld ideals, he espoused unpopular causes. He did all of those things knowing the dangers which surround those who choose such dedication. 

“Because he knew, because his choice was voluntary, he was a man of sacrifice. He offered his life, his talents, his energies no matter the price he might have to pay.” 

The bishop said that at a time when so many people think religion is irrelevant and even childish, Robert Kennedy shows to all that education, wealth and success should increase our religious spirit, not diminish it. His behaviour as a son and brother will long be an example to children everywhere. His devotion as a husband and father will inspire men for many generations to come. 

“His integrity and zeal as a citizen should encourage patriotism in American as long as there is a country called the United States. His dedication and courage as a political leader should guarantee the development of better government all over the world. 

“It is said that a man cannot show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. This selfish maternalistic and inhuman world should abandon hatred and espouse love in imitation of Senator Kennedy.” 

Bishop Marrocco was con-celebrant with Bishop Isidore Borecky and Bishop F.V. Allen, principal celebrant. The Mass was said according to the new funeral rite: celebrants wore white vestments and the ceremony was all in English.

Metro Chairman Wm. Allen read the First Reading and Ray Modeski, deacon of St. Augustine’s Seminary, read the Gospel. George Mace read the Offertory Prayers and Pat Hogan and Cyril McKian bore the offertory gifts to the altar. The music was sung by Cathedral Choristers under Fr. T.B. Armstrong and Fr. Ken Robitaille was MC. 

Present among those in the sanctuary were representatives of various churches. Also present were numerous representatives of federal, provincial and municipal governments, of the judiciary and of the consulates with place of honour given to members of the American Embassy.

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