Biden at Vatican to talk climate, poverty with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY, -- President Joe Biden declared it was "good to return" on Friday. He opened a five-day European visit at the Vatican where he and Pope Francis, the two most important Roman Catholics in the world, planned to discuss climate change, poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden at Vatican to talk climate, poverty with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY, -- President Joe Biden declared it was "good to return" on Friday. He opened a five-day European visit at the Vatican where he and Pope Francis, the two most important Roman Catholics in the world, planned to discuss climate change, poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden and Jill were greeted by a dozen Swiss Guards dressed in blue and gold striped uniforms, and red-plumed Halberds. Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza welcomed them and then met each of the papal ushers (or papal gentlemen) who lined up in front of the San Damaso courtyard.

Biden said, "It's great to be back," as he shook hands with one of them. He said, "I'm Jill’s husband," to one of them before being led upstairs to the private library of the pope in the frescoed Apostolic Palace.

Biden is proud of his Catholic faith and uses it to guide many of his economic and social policies. Biden is a regular attendee of Mass and wears a Rosary. However, his support for abortion rights as well as same-sex marriage has brought him into conflict with many U.S. bishops. Some have even suggested that he should not receive Communion.

Biden arrived at Vatican in unusually long procession of over 80 vehicles. This was partly due to Italian COVID-19 restrictions regarding the number of people who can share a vehicle.

Due to Vatican restrictions on press access, no live photos or video of the meeting were expected.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that she was expecting a "warm, constructive dialogue" between them.

Psaki stated that there was a lot of overlap and agreement with Pope Francis and the president on a variety of issues, including poverty, climate change, and ending the COVID-19 epidemic. These are all extremely important and impactful issues, which will be the focus of their discussions when they meet.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national safety adviser, said that President Obama and Pope Francis would meet privately prior to meeting with expanded delegations. Biden will be visiting Rome, then Glasgow, Scotland for two summits. The first is for leaders of the Group of 20 developing and leading nations, and the second is for a global climate conference.

Biden is the second Catholic president to be elected after John F. Kennedy. This was Biden's first scheduled meeting on the trip. Biden and Francis had previously met three times before, but this was their first meeting since Biden became president.

After the papal meeting, Biden will have a separate meeting Friday with Group of 20 summit host Sergio Mattarella of Italy and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy. In an attempt to repair relations with France, Biden will meet with President Emmanuel Macron. This is part of an effort for repairing relations after the U.S. & U.K. decided not to supply nuclear-powered submarines Australia. It also canceled an existing French contract.

The controversy surrounding Biden's meeting in Rome with Pope Francis was averted when the Vatican cancelled plans to live broadcast the meeting and denied access to the press. Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesperson, said that the revised TV plan reflected the virus protocol applicable to all heads of state audiences. He did not say why the Vatican had originally scheduled more extensive live coverage but then cancelled it.

It will not be possible to broadcast live or take independent photos of Biden greeting Francis at the palace Throne Room. There will also not be live footage of Francis and Biden beginning their conversation in Francis’ library.

According to the Vatican, it will provide edited footage of this encounter to accredited media.

The Vatican has since barred journalists and photographers from papal audiences with papal leaders from beginning 2020 because of the coronavirus. However, external news media are permitted to attend other papal events.

This decision comes just as the U.S. bishops will meet in Baltimore in three weeks for their annual fall convention. Conservatives are trying to block Biden's ability to receive Communion. Although it is unlikely that any document from the event will name the president, he could still face some sort of rebuke.

Francis stressed that he won't reject political leaders who support abortion rights. However, Catholic policy allows bishops to decide whether or not to prohibit people from receiving Communion.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a prominent U.S. conservative cardinal, and Francis critic, wrote an intense plea to bishops for Communion.

Burke did not cite Biden, but stated that such Catholic politicians caused grave scandal to the faithful. Church law states that anyone who "obstinately persists in manifest grave sin," should not be allowed to Communion.

Burke stated that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights have "in fact contributed in a significant manner to the consolidation of the culture of death in America, in which procured abortion is just a fact of everyday life."

Biden has always regarded his faith as the cornerstone of who he is. He wrote in 2007 his memoir "Promises to Keep," that he felt a strong connection with God and never doubted his existence.

In 2007, he told The Christian Science Monitor that he believed his faith was universal enough to allow for people with different views.

Biden stated that his views were in complete agreement with Catholic social doctrine. "There are some elements in the church that believe that if you disagree with any teachings of Catholicism, you are against the church. "I believe the church is larger than that."

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.

RELATED NEWS