John Kerry and the Clintons help bring James Gandolfini's body home; funeral scheduled for Thursday

james-gandolfini-funeral-arrrangements.jpg"Sopranos" actor James Gandolfini passed away unexpectedly last week while on vacation in Italy with his family. And it can take a while to get a body back from a foreign country, even when the cause of death is something natural like a heart attack. But some political heavyweights stepped in to help the Gandolfini family.

In a statement from Gandolfini spokesman Michael Kobold, the family says:

On behalf of the Gandolfini family, I would like to thank the Italian authorities for all the assistance they have rendered in expediting the formalities necessary to repatriate James Gandolfini's remains to the United States. We are fully aware that this process usually takes seven 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.

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.

Meanwhile, a family friend tells CNN that Gandolfini's remains will leave Rome on Monday and arrive in New York later that evening. The funeral has been scheduled for Thursday, June 27 in Manhattan.
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