In accordance with the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI, President Joe Biden did not attend the funeral Mass at St. Peter’s Square for the pope. The United States was represented by Ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly.
According to the Vatican Press Office, Benedict wanted his funeral to be simple and only wanted two official delegations invited to attend: Italy and Germany. The Vatican said the late pope’s wishes were that the funeral and celebrations be “solemn and sober”.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters that “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.” President Biden, on the other hand, could have attended the Mass in an unofficial capacity. Several world leaders chose to pay their respects to the late pontiff by attending the Mass in an unofficial capacity. Biden could have done the same but chose to not attend.
According to the National Catholic Register, world leaders attending in unofficial capacities are Poland President Andrzej Duda, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Slovenia President Natasa Pirc Musar, Queen Sofia of Spain, King Philippe, and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
Biden has touted his Catholic faith throughout his political career and particularly during his campaign for president. He met with Pope Benedict in 2011 at the Vatican and the White House press secretary said Biden mourns the loss of the pontiff and will always remember him. World leaders attending the funeral in an unofficial capacity are all Roman Catholic except for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban is a member of the Calvinist Hungarian Reformed Church but his wife and children were raised Roman Catholic. His son, however, converted to Protestantism.
As a rosary flaunting Catholic, Biden should be among those attending the funeral as a Catholic and not in an official capacity. The president is no stranger to ignoring the Church when it suits his personal needs or desires. He has vowed to do everything he could to ensure abortions are legal and available, yet states he personally does not believe in abortion. He has collided with many Catholic bishops on his stance for protecting same-sex marriage when the Church’s teachings are opposed to such belief. It should be no surprise that he would choose to not attend the Mass in an unofficial capacity even if the late pope only had two official delegations invited to attend.
It's unclear why Biden chose to not attend in an unofficial capacity. Speculation has abounded as to if Biden was specifically uninvited based on his pro-abortion public stance and pro-same sex marriage stance or if he was among others not invited due to the late pope’s desire for only two delegations to attend in an attempt to keep the funeral simpler. The one thing that is certain, however, barring a specific prohibition from attendance by the Vatican or the late pontiff, Biden could have joined other Catholic world leaders and attended the funeral in an unofficial capacity. He chose not to attend.