IrishCentral has learned that Sen. Edward Kennedy has received the Last Rites from the Catholic Church as he continues to battle a deadly brain cancer.

Sources close to the family have confirmed that Kennedy, deeply religious like all the Kennedys, has been anointed by a priest who administered the Sacrament to him at his bedside.

Receiving the Last Rites, however, does not mean that the Lion of the Senate's death is imminent.

Religious Catholics often receive the Sacrament before serious surgery and when their health is at serious risk.

For instance, Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy, received Last Rites at least three times before his death at at the hands of an assassin in Texas in November 1963.

  • Once in wartime when he was famously injured on PT109;
  • Once on the ocean liner Queen Mary in September 1947 which was bringing him home from London where he had been diagnosed with Addison disease and been hospitalized;
  • Again when he suffered a severe infection that temporarily put him into a coma.

Kennedy's sister Eunice, who recently died and whose funeral the Senator was unable to attend, rebounded from "Last Rites" at least three times, proving a constant surprise to her family with her resiliency and strength to survive doctors' predictions that her death was near.

Senator John McCain this week said the Senate was a tougher place without Kennedy.

"No person in that institution is indispensable," he said,  ""but Ted Kennedy comes as close to being indispensable as any individual I've ever known in the Senate because he had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions."

McCain, who co-sponsored the ill-fated Kennedy/McCain immigration bill with Kennedy said the debate over health-care reform would likely be in a very different place today if Kennedy was present.