Clintons Help Gandolfini Family Speed Return

Funeral service to be held Thursday at Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan

James Gandolfini‘s body is scheduled to return to the U.S. on Monday after the family of “The Sopranos” star enlisted help from Bill and Hillary Clinton in expediting the process of repatriating his remains.

Gandolfini family spokesman Michael Kobold on Sunday morning read a lengthy statement thanking former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their assistance in speeding up the process that otherwise could have taken seven to 10 days.

SEE MORE: Gandolfini Autopsy: Actor Died of Heart Attack

HBO Sunday afternoon confirmed that the funeral service for Gandolfini will be held Thursday morning at Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan.

Gandolfini died Wednesday of a heart attack while in Rome with his family.

“We are fully aware that this process usually takes 7 days and we are extremely grateful for their efficiency in dealing with this  matter. It has been our privilege to be guests in your beautiful country, despite the difficult circumstances,” Kobald said.

SEE MORE: HBO Pays Multiplatform Homage to James Gandolfini

“We would like to thank the United States government, especially Secretary Kerry and our friends at the State Department for helping us in this time of need. Our expressed thanks to the people at the Italy desk at the State Department for working day and night on our behalf. We thank President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their kind support. And we would like to applaud Vice Consul Patricia Hill and her colleagues at the consular section at the U.S. Embassy here in Rome for being so courteous and helpful throughout this difficult process.”

Kobald also expressed gratitude to HBO and United Airlines for helping to “make a heart-wrenching situation more bearable.”

SEE MORE: Gandolfini Mourned at Italian Festival as New Details Emerge

The Gandolfini family friend said Gandolfini’s body was expected to leave Rome on Monday morning and be back in the U.S. by the evening.

In Rome, as in the U.S., Gandolfini’s unexpected death at age 51 has been in the headlines non-stop ever since the news broke Wednesday afternoon. Kobald read the statement at a news conference at Rome’s Hotel Boscolo Exedra, where Gandolfini died.

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