Pope Benedict’s funeral draws thousands to Vatican: Live updates

Pope Benedict’s funeral draws thousands to Vatican: Live updates

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credit…James Hill for The New York Times

When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, after 27 years at the head of the Catholic Church, his funeral drew heads of state and government from more than 70 countries, not to mention an array of royalty and leaders of other major world religions.

The funeral of Benedict XVI, who in 2013 became the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign, was expected to be more modestly attended. After all, for nearly a decade Benedict was pope emeritus — living “hidden from the world,” as he vowed when he retired.

The Vatican announced that only two official delegations would participate in the ceremony: one from Italy, led by President Sergio Mattarella, and one from Benedict’s native Germany, led by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

However, there will be a significant number of notable leaders.

The Vatican said representatives of other countries will attend in a personal 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 did ministers from Cyprus, Colombia, Croatia, France and Britain, according to the Vatican’s guest list, which has grown since Benedict’s death on Saturday. Other dignitaries expected to attend included the head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a more than 900-year-old Catholic group.

President Biden, who is Catholic, will not attend, but he was sending Holy See Ambassador Joe Donnelly.

The Italian government has ordered all Italian and European Union flags on public buildings to fly at half-mast on Thursday. Prime Minister Georgia Meloni will also attend, her office said Wednesday.

Representatives of the world’s Christian churches and ecumenical organizations have also announced plans to participate.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide, sent two representatives. Volokolamsk Metropolitan Antony, head of external relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, was expected to attend. The Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Macedonia and the Orthodox Church in America also plan to send representatives.

Officials from the Anglican and Protestant churches were expected to attend. A delegation of the Jewish community in Rome and representatives of two Muslim organizations in Italy were also among the expected attendees.

It was not yet certain how many of the church’s cardinals would attend.

Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesman, said invitations had been sent to all 224 cardinals. “We’ll see who comes,” he said this week.

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