Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral was held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica in Italy, but President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, did not show up at the funeral and his administration has given conflicting reasons for his absence.
The former pope passed away over New Year’s weekend and on Tuesday White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a press conference that the president would not be attending in line with the “wishes of the late pope,” according to the Catholic News Agency. On Wednesday, however, Biden stated that he would only be getting “in the way” if he attended the funeral, and a Vatican spokesperson offered yet another explanation.
Matteo Bruni told Euro News that only the Italian and German heads of state had officially been invited but did not exclude other heads of state from attending. (RELATED: Former Pope Benedict Is ‘Very Sick,’ Needs Prayers, Francis Says)
“[I]f other heads of state or government come, they will do so in a personal capacity,” Bruni stated.
Other heads of state confirmed as attendees were the president of Poland Andrzej Duda; King Philippe of Belgium; Sophia, the Spanish Queen Mother; and the president of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, according to Euro News. Biden claimed that his presence would cause too much disruption during the funeral.
“The reason I’m not attending the funeral tomorrow is it would take an entourage of a thousand people to show up,” Biden said to a reporter. “We would move everything in the wrong direction.”
Reporter asks Biden why he’s not attending Former Pope Benedict’s funeral:
REPORTER: “You’re not attending his funeral tomorrow…why?”
BIDEN: “Why do you think?”
REPORTER: “Well, you tell me.”
BIDEN: “You know why…We would just get in the way.” pic.twitter.com/XAGvRGzMTH
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 4, 2023
Jean-Pierre cited a different reason, claiming the pope and the former pope had made it clear they did not wish for the president to attend, instead requesting that John Donnelly, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, be present at the funeral.
“[T]he 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,” Jean-Pierre stated. “This is what their requests were.”
Who will represent the US at Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral? And what did the late Pope mean to Catholic President Joe Biden?
Correspondent @owentjensen asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about both of these topics relating to Pope Benedict. pic.twitter.com/Iaahas5XMa
— EWTN News Nightly (@EWTNNewsNightly) January 3, 2023
The White House told the Daily Caller News Foundation Biden and Jean-Pierre’s statements were not in conflict with the statements made by the Vatican.
“It was the Vatican’s request that no official delegations aside from Germany and Italy attend,” a White House spokesperson stated. “The President spoke to why attending in a personal capacity presented challenges.”
Over 200,000 people came over the past three days leading up to the funeral while the Pope lay in state, according to the Catholic News Agency. Pope Francis presided over the funeral and Benedict was buried under St. Peter’s Basilica following the service, according to The New York Times.
The Vatican did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
This story has been updated with comment from a White House spokesperson.
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