The claim: President Biden was barred from Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral
“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.
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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.
Neither the Vatican nor the White House responded to requests for comment. USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the allegation for comment.
Our fact-checking sources:
The Vatican, 31 December 2022, Indications regarding Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s lie in state and funeral
The White House, January 4, Remarks by President Biden prior to Marine One departure
The White House, January 3, Press briefing by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Rev. David CollinsJanuary 6, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Catholic News Agency, January 3, Funeral of Benedict XVI: Everything you need to know
USA TODAY, December 31, 2022, The Vatican is facing an unprecedented challenge: How to hold a funeral for Pope Emeritus Benedict
USA TODAY, December 31, 2022, Former Pope Benedict XVI, the first to resign from the papacy in about 600 years, dies after illness
USA TODAY, February 11, 2013, Pope’s resignation a surprise for American Catholics
Washington Post, January 5, Pope Benedict XVI funeral a mixture of old rituals and new precedents
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact Check: President Biden was not barred from Pope Benedict’s funeral