President Joe Biden was not invited to Thursday’s funeral of Pope Benedict XVI, and the U.S. ambassador to Italy will represent America at the pontiff’s burial, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
It was not clear if the lack of an invitation was a direct snub to Biden, a Catholic who nonetheless is an ardent supporter of abortion. But Jean-Pierre said the situation represented the wishes of the late pope himself.
“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,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is what — this is what their requests were. This is what their wishes were.”
The German-born Benedict died on December 31 at age 95. He had stepped down as pope in 2013, when he was succeeded by Pope Francis, but retained the title of pope emeritus.
The Italian and German delegations were the only nations whose delegations were officially invited, according to Euro News. Vatican spokesman Matteo Burni stated, “If other heads of state or government come, they will do so in a personal capacity.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will attend Pope Benedict’s funeral, as will Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philippe of Belgium. President of Poland Andrzej Duda and President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa will also attend.
Jean-Pierre said Biden was an admirer of Benedict, who he met more than a decade ago.
“So, as the President said in his statement, as I’m sure you saw, he joins Catholics and so many others around the world in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” Jean-Pierre said. “He will always remember the Pope’s generosity and meaningful conversation they had when he visited the Vatican in 2011.”
Biden’s support for abortion has angered fellow Catholics, including in September of 2021, when he condemned the U.S. Supreme Court for declining to stay a Texas law effectively banning most abortions after six weeks, and last year, after the high court struck down Roe v. Wade.
In October 2019, Biden was denied communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina. Father Robert Morey, the pastor at Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, said he refused Biden communion because “any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”
“Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that,” Morey stated, adding, “As a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers.”
But Jean-Pierre insisted Wednesday that Biden is a man of faith.
“Look, you know, the President, as you know, he takes his faith very seriously,” she told reporters. “This is someone who is passionate about his faith. That’s not something I even need to tell you; you know this for yourself.”