The White House refused to divulge Tuesday whether the Vatican and the now-deceased Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had asked President Joe Biden not to attend Benedict’s funeral.
The Daily Signal repeatedly pressed the White House on this point Tuesday afternoon after White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, will represent the United States at the pope’s funeral “in line with the wishes of the late pope and the Vatican.”
“This is what their requests were. This is what their wishes were,” she said, indicating that Benedict had expressed wishes or left instructions on the matter.
Her remarks quickly prompted questions about whether the now-deceased pope had specifically requested the absence of Biden, a vocal abortion supporter and strong proponent of same-sex marriage who frequently touts his Catholic faith.
Media outlets and reporters have frequently described Biden as a devout Catholic, though the president has drawn criticism for publicly supporting and advocating policies that the Catholic Church explicitly opposes.
Kathleen Waters, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, told The Daily Signal on Tuesday evening that Biden “has asked U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Joe Donnelly to represent the United States at the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.”
“I would refer you to what the Vatican has said publicly about official delegations,” she added, without responding to further requests for comment.
Benedict XVI died on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Benedict’s funeral will take place on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in Rome, where Pope Francis will preside over his deceased predecessor’s funeral Mass.
The Vatican repeatedly mentioned Benedict’s wishes for his funeral in announcements on the upcoming rite.
“At the end of the Requiem Mass, the mortal remains of the Pope Emeritus will be taken to the Grottos under St. Peter’s Basilica, where his coffin will be placed inside a zinc coffin, which in turn will be placed inside a wooden case,” Vatican News shared. “Benedict XVI will be laid to rest in the tomb where St. John Paul II had been buried before his beatification, according to his final wishes.”
Vatican Press Office Director Matteo Bruni also told reporters that “following the wishes of the pope emeritus, the funeral will be held under the sign of simplicity,” according to the Catholic News Agency. It will be a “solemn but sober funeral,” he added.
“The express request on the part of the emeritus pope is that everything be simple, both with regard to the funeral, as well as the other celebrations and gestures during this time of pain,” Bruni said, according to the publication.
Benedict XVI’s funeral Mass will incorporate Jesus Christ’s final words: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Vatican news service noted that “those words are not so dissimilar to the last words” of Benedict: “Signore, ti amo” or “Jesus, I love you.”
Benedict served the Catholic Church as pope for almost eight years, beginning in April 2005 and ending in February 2013. He was the first pope to step down from his ministry in almost 600 years, chosen to serve as pontiff after the death of Pope St. John Paul II, and was followed by Pope Francis.
His abdication of the papacy has sparked fears and anxieties from many traditional and conservative Catholics, particularly in light of Pope Francis’ markedly more progressive tenure.
The Vatican did not respond to requests for comment.
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