Obama delivers letter from Kennedy to Pope

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a letter from Senator Edward Kennedy to Pope Benedict on Friday and asked the Roman Catholic pontiff to pray for the senator, who is suffering from an incurable brain tumor.

Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said the Pope and the president concluded their half-hour meeting with a discussion about Kennedy, whose brother John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic president of the United States.

“The president delivered a letter from Senator Kennedy to the Holy Father. He also asked that the Holy Father pray for ... Kennedy, who as we all know is ill,” McDonough told reporters on Air Force One en route from Rome to Ghana.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama spoke to Kennedy for about 10 minutes from the plane before it lifted off to tell him he had delivered the letter to the Pope.

“The contents of the letter were not known to anybody that I know of except Senator Kennedy,” Gibbs said when asked about the letter.

Kennedy collapsed in May 2008 at his Cape Cod, Massachusetts, home and was flown to a hospital in Boston, where he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Reporting by Jeff Mason, writing by David Alexander; editing by Eric Beech