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US President Joe Biden will not attend Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral

It has been confirmed that US President Joe Biden will not attend Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral this Thursday, in accordance with the “wishes” of the departed pontiff. 

The White House press secretary confirmed that Biden, the second Catholic president in US history, will not be in attendance in response to a question from journalist Owen Jensen from EWTN News on Tuesday 3 January. Karine Jean-Pierre responded by saying that “the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, will represent the United States at the funeral of the pope in line with the wishes of the late pope and the Vatican. 

“This is what their requests were. This is what their wishes were,” Jean-Pierre said, an indication that Benedict had expressed wishes or left instructions on the matter. 

 

While the press conference has given rise to rumours that Biden had been ‘barred’ from attending, it is understood that just two official state delegations — from Italy and Germany — will attend the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Vatican’s press office confirmed this, providing a much-anticipated answer to one of the many novel protocol questions which have been raised since the death of a pope emeritus.

While Jean-Pierre went on to explain that Biden, a baptised Catholic, is “passionate” about his faith, his broad-based support for abortion has attracted criticism for being in conflict with what the church teaches on the sanctity of life. Biden has also drawn criticism from Catholics for his strong support for same-sex marriage and transgender ideology while touting his Catholic faith.

Pope Benedict, on the other hand, was a longstanding defender of life and expressed deep opposition to abortion. Back in 2013 while he was still Pope, the late pontiff sent a Twitter message expressing his support for those participating in the march for life for an end to abortion – while calling on political leaders to ‘protect the unborn’.

“I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life,” he tweeted on Jan. 25, 2013. Some Catholics have questioned whether Biden was not welcome at the late Pope’s funeral Mass because of his ideologies which stand in conflict with Church teaching – however, the White House has not said if the Vatican ‘uninvited’ Biden from the Papal funeral.

German-born Benedict lived in Italy for more than 40 years, from 1981. The Vatican’s Press Office confirmed on 31 December that the two nations would be sending official representatives to the funeral, to be held on Thursday. The Holy See’s press office confirmed in a statement that only these two official delegations were invited to the funeral.

While only two state delegations have officially been invited to attend the funeral Mass, some heads of state and public figures are attending the funeral in an unofficial capacity and are allowed to do so.

Heads of state who will be in attendance include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar, and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, all of whom have confirmed that they will attend in an unofficial capacity. 

Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium are among European royals planning to attend.

More than 130,000 Catholics have flocked to the Vatican, with queues of people mounting to pay their respects as the former pontiff lies in state.

Benedict XVI died aged 95 on 31 December. His personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein confirmed that the pope emeritus’ last words were “Signore, ti amo!” (Jesus, I love you).

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