When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, after 27 years at the helm of the Catholic Church, his funeral drew the heads of state or government of more than 70 countries, not to mention an assortment of royalties and leaders. of the other major world religions.
The funeral of Benedict XVI, who in 2013 became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign his office, was scheduled for a more modest turnout. After all, for almost a decade, Benedict XVI had been pope emeritus, living “hidden from the world,” as he promised when he resigned.
The Vatican announced that only two official delegations would take part in the ceremony: one from Italy, led by President Sergio Mattarella, and another from Benedict XVI’s native Germany, led by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Even so, there will be a substantial number of notable leaders available.
The Vatican said representatives of other countries will participate in a private capacity, including the monarchs of Spain and Belgium, and the presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Togo and San Marino.
The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Gabon and Slovakia planned to attend, as well as ministers from Cyprus, Colombia, Croatia, France and Britain, according to a Vatican guest list that has been growing since Benedict’s death on Saturday. Other dignitaries expected to attend included the head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Catholic group for more than 900 years.
President Biden, who is Catholic, will not attend but was sending the ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly.
the italian government has ordered all Italian and European Union flags will fly at half-mast in public buildings on Thursday. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will also attend, her office said Wednesday.
Representatives of the world’s Christian churches and ecumenical organizations also announced that they planned to participate.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians, sent two representatives. Metropolitan Antony of Volokolamsk, head of foreign affairs for the Russian Orthodox Church, was expected to attend. The Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Macedonia and the Orthodox Church of America also planned to send representatives.
Officials from the Anglican and Protestant churches were expected to attend. A delegation from Rome’s Jewish community and representatives of two Muslim organizations in Italy were also among the anticipated attendees.
It was still uncertain how many cardinals from the church would be present.
Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesman, said invitations had been sent to all 224 cardinals. “We’ll see who comes,” he said this week.