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Edward Kennedy joins brothers John and Robert at Arlington Cemetery

Family, friends, members of the US House and Senate, and hundreds of congressional staffers who had worked with him say their final goodbyes.

By David T. CookStaff writer / August 29, 2009

The Kennedy family gathers around the grave site as an honor guard carries the casket of Senator Ted Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery. Kennedy was buried next to his brothers Robert and John on Saturday.

Doug Mills/AP

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Washington

As the sun set over Arlington Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, Senator Edward M. Kennedy was laid to rest just steps from the graves of his brothers John and Robert as 200 family members, friends, and Senate staffers looked on.

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The graveside services began at 7:54 p.m. and much of the ceremony took place in near total darkness.

“It is certainly fitting to have a burial at the dying of the day since we know the sun will come back tomorrow,” said Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington and a personal friend of Senator Kennedy’s, who conducted the burial service.

After Kennedy’s daughter, Kara, read a letter from Paul to the Philippians, Cardinal McCarrick read extracts from a letter Senator Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI and had President Obama deliver on a recent trip to the Vatican. He also read a response from the Pope to Kennedy.

"I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines," Kennedy wrote. "I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path." After listing the legislative causes he had championed, including caring for the poor and trying to end war, Kennedy concluded, “I would be most thankful for your prayers for me.”

Cardinal McCarrick said that two weeks later Kennedy received a letter from the Vatican saying the Pope had asked the writer to “assure you of his concern and spiritual closeness.” The letter continued that the Pope “cordially imparts his apostolic blessing.”

As darkness fell over Arlington, the resting place of 260,000 members of the US military, the most visible object at the Kennedy gravesite was the US flag an honor guard held over the casket. After the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer, a rifle salute, and the playing of taps, the voices of Kennedy’s four grandchildren could be heard talking about how much they loved him.

Granddaughter Grace Allen said, “Our favorite time of the year was Thanksgiving because we were all together.”