Jackie Kennedy letters to priest show her struggles with faith

Newly published letters between Jackie Kennedy and a priest reveal the former US first lady’s struggles to keep her faith after her husband was assassinated.

The priest was Vincentian Fr Joseph Leonard, a lecturer at Dublin’s All Hallows College, who died in 1964.

Excerpts from the letters were published in the Irish Times.

One letter, dated January, 1964, only months after President John F. Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, shows the depth of Mrs Kennedy’s struggle.

“I am so bitter against God,” she wrote, but added “only he and you and I know that.”

She explained that she did not want to be bitter “or bring up my children in a bitter way” and was “trying to make my peace with God”.

She wrote: “I think God must have taken Jack to show the world how lost we would be without him -but that is a strange way of thinking to me.”

Mrs Kennedy wrote in the same letter that “God will have a bit of explaining to do to me if I ever see him”.

She asked Fr Leonard to pray for her and said she would pray too in an effort to overcome her bitterness against God.

“I have to think there is a God – or I have no hope of finding Jack again,” she wrote.

Fr Leonard first met a young Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1950 when she visited Dublin.

The two struck up an immediate friendship and corresponded regularly.

In 1956, she wrote to the priest after the birth of a stillborn daughter and said: “Don’t think I would ever be bitter at God.”

The letters reveal that in the 1950s, Fr Leonard helped rekindle Jackie Kennedy’s faith.

But Jesuit Fr Thomas Reese said All Hallows College should never have sold the letters.

The letters should have been burnt or placed in archives for a century, because there is a presumption of confidentiality when a person writes to a priest about his or her spiritual life, Fr Reese said.

The 33 letters are set to be auctioned in Dublin on June 10.

They are expected to sell for well over US$1million.


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