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There is no evidence that President Joe Biden was specifically uninvited from Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral.
The Vatican announced that Benedict wished for his funeral to be simple and confirmed it invited only two official delegations, from Italy and Germany. Germany is Benedict's home country.
The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, attended the funeral.
After Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at age 95 on Dec. 31, 2022, the Vatican said his express request was that his funeral be kept simple.
But conservative outlet Newsmax claimed that Benedict’s wishes went a step further, writing in a recent story that he specifically asked that President Joe Biden, who is Catholic, not be invited.
"HIS HOLINESS' WISHES: Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican requested that President Biden not attend Benedict's funeral," Newsmax posted in a Facebook caption Jan. 4.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.
There is no evidence that Biden was purposely excluded. The Vatican announced Dec. 31 that the funeral would be simple and that it invited only two official delegations to the funeral, from Italy and Germany. Germany is Benedict's home country.
PolitiFact reached out to Newsmax for comment but did not hear back.
Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni told reporters that "following the wishes of the pope emeritus, the funeral will be held under the sign of simplicity," adding that it would be a "solemn but sober funeral," the Catholic News Agency reported.
"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.
In its Jan. 4 story, Newsmax cites White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for its claim that Biden was purposely uninvited. But this misconstrues her words.
Her comment came during a Jan. 3 press briefing, after she was asked about U.S. representation at the funeral.
"To answer your question, 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," she said. "This is what — this is what their requests were. This is what their wishes were. And so, that’s what you’re seeing from the U.S."
On the White House lawn a day later, a reporter asked Biden why he wasn’t attending. The president replied, "You know why … The reason I'm not attending the funeral tomorrow is it would take an entourage of a thousand people to show up ... We would move everything in the wrong direction."
In a statement following the pope’s death, Biden said he spent time with Benedict at the Vatican in 2011 and will "always remember his generosity and welcome as well as our meaningful conversation … He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the Church, guided by his principles and faith."
Biden has been a controversial figure among some Catholics, particularly over his support on abortion, which the Catholic church opposes. Pope Francis has described it as an "incoherence" and said Biden should talk to his pastor about it in a July 2022 interview.
Although not many funeral invitations were issued, some public figures said they planned to attend in unofficial capacities, including leaders from Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Spain and Belgium.
Newsmax claimed that Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican requested that Biden not attend Benedict’s funeral.
There’s no evidence that Biden was purposely not invited. The Vatican announced that Benedict had asked for a simple ceremony and that only delegations from Italy and Germany would be formally invited.
The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See attended the funeral.
We rate this False.
Facebook post, Jan. 4, 2023
Newsmax, Pope Benedict Asked Biden Not to Attend His Funeral, Jan. 4, 2023
New York Times, A ‘Final Farewell’ as Benedict Is Buried at the Vatican, Jan. 5, 2023
Vatican press office, Indications regarding the Lying in State and Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Dec. 31, 2022
Catholic News Agency, Funeral of Benedict XVI: Everything you need to know, Jan. 3, 2023
Catholic News Agency, President Joe Biden will not attend Benedict XVI’s funeral, Jan. 4, 2023
Catholic News Agency Pope Francis considers it an ‘incoherence’ that President Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights, July 12, 2022
WhiteHouse.gov, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Jan. 3, 2023
The Week, Why isn't Biden attending Pope Benedict's funeral?, Jan. 5, 2023
WhiteHouse.gov, Statement from President Joe Biden on the Death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Dec. 31, 2022
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