Pope Francis’ inauguration Mass scheduled on Tuesday has attracted a heavyweight of world leaders and royalty heads as the Roman Catholic Church prepares to face an inevitable headache in diplomatic procedures for the Vatican.
In a Church event of this magnitude with no official invitations issued, expect some VIPs to arrive without prior notice, or world leaders with highly contrasting views shaking their hands in front of Church leaders and the media.
For instance, the planned attendance of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou didn’t sit well with China, which bitterly opposes any move that imply recognition of Taiwan by other countries. China’s relation with the Vatican has loon been edgy in a disagreement concerning the fate of the Catholics in the country.
The new Supreme Pontiff, the first Latin American leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, may also have to contend with the presence of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who is under a travel ban by the European Union. Mugabe has been widely condemned for human rights abuses in his country but is diplomatically entitled to travel to the sovereign city state of the Holy See.
Already in Rome is US Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived late Sunday, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff Linhares.
Also expected to attend are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, EU President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barosso. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Uruguay’s Vice President Danilo Astori, Colombian former president Cesar Gaviria, King of the Belgians Albert II and Queen Paola, Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and Britain’s Duke of Gloucester.
Meanwhile, President Benigno S. Aquino III is sending Vice President Jejomar C. Binay to Rome as his representative in Pope Francis’ inaugural mass.