Home Today's History Highlights Archive Jackie Kennedy Pours Her Heart Out to an Old Irish Priest

Jackie Kennedy Pours Her Heart Out to an Old Irish Priest

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Jackie Kennedy for 14 years confided in an old Irish priest after meeting him only once on a visit to Dublin.

Jacqueline KennedyShe poured out her grief and anger to Fr. Joseph Leonard after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. According to The Irish Times, she wrote:

“I am so bitter against God.

“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.”

But, she concluded,

“I have to think there is a God — or I have no hope of finding Jack again.”

Father Figure

Fr. Leonard had befriended Jackie’s step-uncle, W. S. Lewis, in the 1920s. Lewis recommended Jackie meet him on a trip to Ireland in 1950. She, a 21-year-old socialite, he, a scholarly 73-year-old semi-retired priest.

Fr. Leonard met Jackie and her step-brother, Hugh Auchincloss, at the airport and escorted them around Ireland, according to Irish Central.

Jackie Kennedy and Fr. Joseph Leonard met only one other time – when she, as First Lady, traveled with her husband to Ireland.

She corresponded with him until he died in Dublin in 1964 at the age of 87.

The letters – 33 of them — were discovered in an old safe at All Hallows College in Dublin, where Leonard had taught.

Their correspondence grew into almost a father-daughter relationship. “It’s so good in a way to write all this down and get it off your chest – because I never do really talk about it with anyone – but poor you has to read it!” she wrote.

He sent her books and teasingly called her ‘girouette’ – a French expression for a fickle person.

She wrote to him in July 1952 to tell him she thought she’d fallen in love with John F. Kennedy, the New York Post reported.

“I think I’m in love with — and I think it would interest you — John Kennedy — he’s the son of the ambassador to England — the second son — the oldest was killed. He’s 35 and a congressman,” she wrote.

“Maybe it will end very happily — or maybe, since he’s this old and set in his ways and cares so desperately about his career, he just won’t want to give up that much time to extracurricular things like marrying.’’

This story was updated in 2020.

6 comments

Jeanne F. Callinan July 28, 2014 - 6:25 pm

Thank you. I’m hoping to see the JFK Museum this week. This is a good fun fact to take along.

Thelma Barnes July 28, 2014 - 9:36 pm

If they were mine, I would want them kept private. She was confiding in a priest. And, they became friends.

DeVallon Bolles July 29, 2014 - 6:56 am

The revealing of these letters is outrageous. Once again we learn the real priorities of the Church and its minions. Incidentally, by law, physical letters belong to the recipient, but the contents belong to the sender.

Gail Cully July 29, 2014 - 5:28 pm

Keep private for this timeless, classy,beautiful woman

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