Biden was not banned from ‘simple’ papal funeral. He complied with the late Pope’s wishes

The claim: President Biden was barred from Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral

A Facebook post on January 5 (direct link, archive link) claims that President Joe Biden was expressly barred from attending the funeral for Pope Benedict XVI.

“One of Pope Benedict’s last wishes – that pro-abortion Joe Biden not attend his funeral,” reads the caption of a video of Biden speaking in front of the Marine One helicopter. In the clip, a reporter asks Biden why he is not attending the funeral.

The post was shared more than 30 times in eight days. Other versions of this claim circulated widely on Instagram and Facebook.

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Our assessment: False

Biden was not invited to the funeral, but few world leaders were. Some still attended, but Biden said he chose not to because the logistics of a presidential visit would take away from the simple funeral the former pope wanted. Biden explains this to the reporter, but the video clip is edited and does not include his full response.

Former Pope wanted a simple funeral

After Pope Benedict XVI died on December 31, 2022, the Vatican issued a outline which services for the Pope would be like. It noted that the only official delegations would be from Germany, where the Pope Emeritus was born, and Italy.

Matteo Bruni, Director of the Vatican Press Office, told reporters the funeral “would be held under the sign of simplicity” in accordance with Benedict’s wishes, adding that it would be a “solemn but sober funeral.”

An estimated 50,000 people attended Benedict’s funeral, about a fifth of the crowd at Pope John Paul II’s 2005 service, according to the Washington Post.

In the Facebook post claiming Biden was suspended, a reporter asks the president if he will attend the funeral. There’s a brief back and forth where Biden says no and starts saying “You know why” when asked why not.

As the sound fades out and the video ends, official transcripts show Biden explained that staying away would respect Benedict’s wishes to keep the service simple.

“The reason I’m not attending the funeral tomorrow is because it takes an entourage of a thousand people to show up — not literally,” Biden said before boarding Marine One on Jan. 4. “But we would – we would move everything in. the wrong direction. I asked about that. And they are – people mostly send their apostolic delegates, their – the people in Rome. That’s what we have to do. We just wanted to get in the way’.

Ambassador Joe Donnelly represented the United States at the funeral.

Benedict Resigned in 2013, becoming the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. As a result rules and customs of a reigning pope did not apply, according to Reverend David CollinsAssociate Professor of History and Director of Catholic Studies at Georgetown University.

USA TODAY recently rejected several claims related to Benedict, including one that traditions included hit him in the head with a hammer to confirm death

Neither the Vatican nor the White House responded to requests for comment. USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the allegation for comment.

Police Fact and Reuters also denied the claim.

Our fact-checking sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact Check: President Biden was not barred from Pope Benedict’s funeral

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