Catholic press accounts at time of Kennedy’s assassination and on 50th anniversary of his death

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy Nov. 22, 1963, and the 50th anniversary of this tragic event have garnered extensive media coverage.

Kennedy's funeral procession (CNS photo/U.Kennedy Presidential Library) (Nov. 21, 2013)

Kennedy’s funeral procession making its way to Capitol in Washington Nov. 24, 1963. (CNS photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)

The Catholic press has done its share, too, specifically honing in on the Catholic faith of the nation’s 35th president with stories focusing on a priest who administered last rites to the president after he was shot, the homily at his funeral Mass in Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral and the priest who narrated the funeral for a worldwide audience on television and the radio.

The Kennedy assassination folder in the archives of Catholic News Service contains stories (like the one below)  from the funeral Mass in Washington, a Requiem Mass celebrated at a Rome cathedral and special permission for a Mass celebrated at the Kennedy home in Hyannis, Mass., since the president’s father, Joseph, was not well enough to attend the Mass in Washington.

Nov. 25, 1963 story by CNS (formerly NCWC News Service)

Nov. 25, 1963, story on Kennedy funeral by CNS’ predecessor, NCWC News Service.

In his homily at the funeral Mass in Washington, according to our story, Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing, a friend of the Kennedy family, said he had been with the president “since the earliest days of his public life.”

“I have been with him in joy and in sorrow, in decision and in crisis, among friends and with strangers. … Now, all of a sudden, he has been taken from us and we shall not see his like again,” he added.

The cardinal also stressed the public service call of President Kennedy, saying: “It is a consolation for us all to know that his death does not spell the end of this public service.”

Indeed many people continue to keep that vision alive through participation in the Peace Corps or other volunteer work, still remembering Kennedy’s oft-repeated phrase:  “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

President Kennedy reaches out to crowd outside Texas hotel in 1963 CNS photo/Cecil Stoughton, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

President Kennedy reaches out to crowd outside Texas hotel in 1963. (CNS photo/Cecil Stoughton, courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

And people also continue to examine Kennedy’s family, his presidency and his Catholicism.

The newspaper of  the Diocese of Dallas, The Texas Catholic, has written extensively about Kennedy’s impact and what his death meant to the city, nation and world.

The USCCB’s blog also examines Kennedy’s Catholicism,  his politics and continuing influence.

Russell Shaw, author and Our Sunday Visitor contributing editor,  sums up some of the modern Catholic views of Kennedy this way in the Nov. 6 issue of Our Sunday Visitor:

“Half a century after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, disagreement runs deep regarding his place in American Catholic history. Conflicting images of the man — fallen hero of the Camelot myth, cynical and manipulative rogue, or perhaps something harder to define — compete for Catholics’ allegiance.

Such images “compete for the allegiance of non-Catholic Americans too,” Shaw continues. “Yet for Catholics, the ambivalence has a particularly sharp edge. Kennedy was one of our own. Both his death and the meaning of his life are matters of special poignancy for us.”

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