Image: Senator Edward Kennedy to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Shawn Thew  /  EPA
The eternal flame burns at the Kennedy family gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Sen. Edward Kennedy will be buried there near his brothers.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 8/26/2009 4:27:58 PM ET 2009-08-26T20:27:58

A funeral Mass for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will be celebrated Saturday at a Boston church, and he will be buried later that day at Arlington National Cemetery near his slain brothers, former President John F. Kennedy and former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy died late Tuesday at age 77 after a yearlong struggle with brain cancer.

On Thursday morning, Kennedy's family will travel by motorcade with his body from their compound on Cape Cod, Mass., to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. His body will lie in repose there for public viewing on Thursday and Friday.

The Kennedys have planned a private memorial service at the library for Friday night, according to a schedule of events released by Kennedy's Senate office. Vice President Joseph Biden and Sens. John Kerry and John McCain will be among the speakers, The New York Times reported.

On Saturday morning, a funeral Mass for the late senator will be celebrated at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica — commonly known as the Mission Church — in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston. The 1,300-seat basilica on Tremont Street, built in the 1870s, was where Kennedy prayed frequently in 2003 while his daughter, Kara, successfully battled her own cancer.

"Over time, the Basilica took on special meaning for him as a place of hope and optimism," the family statement said.

President Barack Obama will speak at the Mass, according to the Times.

Slain brothers
Kennedy's body will be flown to Virginia for a 5 p.m. Saturday private burial service at Arlington, the famous hillside that is the final resting site of others from the storied clan, including former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

At the site of the eternal flame rest four Kennedy family members: the former president and his wife; their baby son, Patrick, who died after two days; and a stillborn child. Robert Kennedy's grave is a short distance away.

Edward Kennedy will be buried approximately 95 feet south of Robert's grave, NBC News reported.

"Senator Kennedy spent more days than most at Arlington visiting the graves of his beloved brothers and paying tribute to the fallen men and women of Massachusetts who gave their lives for our country," the family statement said.

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Final resting place
A senior defense official told the AP the Kennedy family approached the Army some time ago to explore the possibility of burying the senator at Arlington, the nation's most celebrated burial ground of fallen military and the resting place of astronauts, Supreme Court justices and other giants in American history.

Kennedy is eligible for burial at Arlington by virtue of his service in Congress as well as his two years in the Army, 1951 to 1953. He was a private first class and served in the military police at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, then located in Paris and now in Belgium.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to educational programming at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The family has set up a Web site in memory of Kennedy where people can post their memories.

In a separate tribute, Obama has ordered that flags fly at half-staff on federal buildings and at the White House in Kennedy's memory.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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