Pope John Paul II vocally opposed the American war on Iraq, and then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, speaking in a personal capacity, echoed many of these criticisms. He rejected the idea that just war theory justified “preventive war” and spoke of the need to rely on the final decision of the United Nations.
Though the Iraq War removed the harsh government of Saddam Hussein, the conflict and its aftermath killed hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians and destabilized the region.
In a Dec. 31 statement, Biden praised Benedict XVI as “a renowned theologian” and “an inspiration to us all.”
In his Wednesday exchange with President Biden, EWTN’s Jensen asked the president why he wasn’t attending Benedict XVI’s funeral.
“The reason I’m not attending the funeral tomorrow is because it takes an entourage of 1,000 people to show up,” the president responded. “Not literally, but we would move everything in the wrong direction. And I inquired about that.”
“People are sending most of their apostolic delegates, their folks in Rome,” Biden said in an apparent reference to countries’ embassies to the Vatican.
“We would just get in the way, but I’ve made my views known,” Biden said. “At any rate, I think he was a fine man.”
In response to a question from EWTN News on Jan. 3, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said that “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. This is what their requests were.”
The Vatican’s press office has confirmed that only two official state delegations, those of Italy and Germany, were invited to the funeral of the late pope emeritus, which will be held on Jan. 5.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters that “following the wishes of the pope emeritus, the funeral will be held under the sign of simplicity,” stressing that it will be a “solemn but sober funeral.”
While only two state delegations were officially invited to attend the funeral Mass for the deceased former pontiff, some heads of state and public figures have decided to attend the funeral in an unofficial capacity.
(Story continues below)
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Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, and Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar are among those who have already confirmed their attendance at Benedict XVI’s funeral in an unofficial capacity.
European royals Queen Sofia of Spain and King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium also plan to attend.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.