Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died last Saturday at 95, and the Vatican requested that President Joe Biden not attend Benedict's funeral, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
Benedict made the request prior to his death.
The U.S. will send Joe Donnelly, ambassador of the Holy See, "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 when asked if Biden would attend the funeral, which is being held Thursday in St. Peter's Square.
"Well why do you think? You tell me," the president responded on the South Lawn when asked why the White House was sending an ambassador to the memorial and not him. "The reason why I'm not attending the funeral tomorrow is because it takes an entourage of 1,000 people, not literally, but we would move everything in the wrong direction," Biden then answered.
Biden, who has taken flak from Catholics for supporting abortions, in a statement released over the weekend said he will always remember the Pope’s generosity and the meaningful conversations they had at the Vatican in 2011.
"He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the church, guided by his principles and faith," Biden said. "As he remarked during his 2008 visit to the White House, 'The need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity.' May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all."
The funeral is drawing heads of state and royalty despite Benedict's request for simplicity and Vatican efforts to keep the first Vatican funeral low-key for an emeritus Pope in modern times.
Only Italy and Germany were invited to send official delegations, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian President Sergio Mattarella confirmed their participation.
But other heads of state and government decided to take the Vatican up on its offer and come in their "private capacity." As of a late count Wednesday, seven heads of state, four prime ministers, and two delegations of royal representatives were attending as private citizens, including the president of Togo, the prime minister of Gabon and royals from Belgium and Spain.
Solange Reyner ✉
Solange Reyner is a writer and editor for Newsmax. She has more than 15 years in the journalism industry reporting and covering news, sports and politics.
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