Biden visits Vatican embassy to pay respects to Benedict XVI

President Joe Biden Benedict XVI U.S. President Joe Biden signs the condolence book for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2023. | Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden visited the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., known as the apostolic nunciature, on Thursday to sign a book of condolences for Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31. 

After being greeted by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United States, the president wrote:

“Together with Catholics across the United States, I join in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict,” according to the AP.

“He was a brilliant scholar and truly Holy Man. I will always cherish our time together at the Vatican when he was Pope discussing Catholic theology. He was a great theologian and I learned much in a few hours. May his soul rest eternally with the Lord,” he wrote.

“It’s a great honor,” Biden can be heard saying on a C-SPAN video after writing his message.

Biden did not attend Benedict’s funeral, which took place on Jan. 5 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. 

Only two countries, Italy and Germany, sent official state delegations to attend the funeral, because they were the only two countries that were asked to attend in an official capacity. Other heads of state were welcome to attend in a personal capacity. 

Some heads of state who attended in an unofficial capacity included Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar, Queen Sofia of Spain, and King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

Joe Donnelly, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, attended the funeral and represented the United States.

Biden told EWTN White House correspondent Owen Jensen on Jan. 4 about a meeting he once had with Pope Benedict, in which they spoke about theology. 

“I had an opportunity to spend some time with Pope Benedict, a couple of hours, and he was a great. … And reminded me of going back to theology class,” Biden said.

“We spoke about Aquinas and about [the] Summa Theologica,” Biden said, referring to St. Thomas Aquinas’s influential theological writings.

“I found him to be relaxing, very rational, and he had a more conservative view within the Catholic realm than I have. I’m closer to the present pope in terms of his philosophy, his view,” Biden said.

“But I admired him, I thought he was a fine man,” he added.

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