In Rome for the G20, Biden said it was good to be back at the Vatican.
Pope Francis received US President Joseph Biden in an audience today at the Vatican. Biden is in Rome as part of the G20 summit.
The Holy Father is in an intense round of diplomatic meetings, having also met with South Korea’s president and with India’s prime minister on the agenda for tomorrow.
The highly publicized meeting resulted in a particularly long audience. Their dialogue lasted more than 75 minutes, with the official meeting in the Vatican Apostolic Library nearly 90 minutes, the Holy See reported.
The president of the world’s largest power arrived in the world’s smallest state at midday, escorted by a massive convoy of dozens of armored cars, on a road lined with police patrols and watched overhead by a helicopter. He was accompanied by his wife and a delegation of ten, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
After the formal reception, the live broadcast of which had been canceled the day before, the pontiff and the president spoke behind closed doors for a little over an hour and a quarter, a relatively long time, observers noted. In comparison, in 2014, Barack Obama had exchanged 50 minutes with the Argentine Pope; in 2017, the interview with Donald Trump lasted just under 30 minutes.
The images broadcast at the end of the audience gave a glimpse of a visibly relaxed atmosphere. The two men even exchanged some humor in front of the cameras.
Joe Biden then met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
According to the Associated Press, Biden told reporters after the meeting that Francis was “happy I’m a good Catholic” and that he should “keep receiving Communion.” He also said abortion didn’t come up.
“No, it didn’t. It came up — We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic, and I should keep receiving Communion.”
Biden was then asked directly whether the pope said he should continue receiving communion. Biden said “Yes.”
Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican press office, didn’t give further comments on the conversation: “I would consider it a private conversation, and it is limited to what was said in the public statement” (referenced below).
Pandemic, refugees, religious freedom
The Vatican specified the topics of conversations in a press release: the common commitment to the protection and safeguarding of the planet; the health situation and the fight against the pandemic; refugees and aid to migrants; as well as the protection of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion and conscience.
Secondly, it was also a question of international news, within the framework of the G20 which is due to open tomorrow in Rome, as well as the promotion of peace in the world.
A 1930s chasuble
For this first visit as head of state, Joe Biden presented the Pontiff with a hand-woven chasuble dating from the 1930s. The liturgical vestment came from the Jesuit Church of the Holy Trinity in Washington, where the Catholic president attended his first Mass after taking office, said the American consultant for the Dicastery for Communication, James Martin.
Pope Francis presented the President with documents from his pontificate and a ceramic painting entitled “The Pilgrim.”
Joe Biden’s fourth visit to the Vatican
Joe Biden, who is in Rome to participate in the G20, was due to meet Italian head of government Mario Draghi in the afternoon, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.
Arriving in the courtyard of Saint Damasus, the American president exclaimed: “It’s good to be back!”
This was in fact Joe Biden’s fourth visit to the Vatican. In 1980, although a 37-year-old young senator unknown to the general public, he spent 45 long minutes with Pope John Paul II. In 2011 and 2016, it was as vice-president of Barack Obama that he met Benedict XVI and then Pope Francis.
Biden’s arrival was not open to the press beyond his being welcomed by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, head of the Papal Household, and other Vatican officials.
Biden also met Pope Francis in 2013 at the Pope’s inauguration, and when Pope Francis visited the USA in 2015, he was with him a few times, including at one point when the Pope accompanied him over his grief at the recent death of his son, Beau.
White House recaps
Following the meetings, the White House published a summary of both the meeting with the Holy Father and the subsequent meeting with the Pope’s cardinal secretary of state, Pietro Parolin.
This is what was reported:
In his audience with Pope Francis today, President Biden thanked His Holiness for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution. He lauded Pope Francis’ leadership in fighting the climate crisis, as well as his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery.
And regarding Cardinal Parolin:
After an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. met Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin. President Biden thanked Cardinal Parolin for the Vatican’s active leadership in fighting the climate crisis— both through advocacy and encouraging the climate neutrality of hundreds of Christian organizations worldwide. The leaders discussed efforts to rally global support for vaccinating the developing world against COVID-19. President Biden thanked the Vatican for speaking out on behalf of the wrongfully detained, including in Venezuela and Cuba. The leaders committed to continue using their voices to advocate for personal and religious freedoms world-wide.
This is a developing story and will be updated later in the day.