Pope Francis Receives US President Joe Biden

Private Meeting Between Pope and President Lasted 75 Minutes

Pope Francis US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden Meet Pope Francis © Vatican Media

Pope Francis today received US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, for a long-anticipated audience at the Vatican.

After greetings, photos, and exchange of gifts, Biden and the Holy Father retired to the Library of the Apostolic Palace for a private meeting behind closed doors. The private meeting lasted 75 minutes, long for a private Papal meeting.

As usual, the details of the interview were not disclosed. But speaking to reporters after the meeting, Biden said there was no mention of abortion. The Pope would have told him that he is happy that he is “a good Catholic” and should “continue to receive communion”. The president added that the Holy Father prayed for him and blessed him with a rosary. The issue of abortion is at the center of a tough battle between Biden, who favors the right to choose, and the United States Bishops’ Conference.

Thanks Holy Father

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, according to a statement released by the White House.

After his audience with the Pope, Biden met Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States. A White House statement released after the meeting said that 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 worldwide.

Care for Planet

During the course of what the Vatican termed “cordial discussions”, the parties focused on the joint commitment to the protection and care of the planet, the healthcare situation, and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the theme of refugees and assistance to migrants. Reference was also made to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience.

Finally, the talks enabled an exchange of views on some matters regarding the current international situation, also in the context of the imminent G20 summit in Rome, and on the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation.

The traditional exchange of gifts and greetings to the ten-member delegation included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Casa Blanca Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Exchange of Gifts

The Pope gave the US president a painting on a ceramic tile that portrays a pilgrim on the Tiber embankment that indicates St. Peter’s Basilica. In addition to this, some documents, the same ones delivered a few hours earlier to South Korean President Moon: the Message for World Peace Day of 2021 with his signature; the Document on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar; the volume on the Statio Orbis published by LEV which collects the most beautiful photos of the Pontiff’s prayer on March 27, 2020, in the midst of the pandemic.

Biden reciprocated with a hand-woven chasuble with flower and fruit embroidery. It dates back to 1930 when it was commissioned to the well-known tailor Gamarelli and has been used since then in the United States by the Jesuits. The chasuble comes from the historical archive of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, an important Washington church that has played a significant role in supporting the causes of desegregation and civil rights from 1787 onwards. At the same time, the White House said that it will provide a donation of winter clothes to charity organizations, in the name of Pope Francis, to thank him for this meeting, on the occasion of the World Day of the Poor, on November 14.

Fourth Meeting with Biden

Today’s audience is the fourth direct contact between Pope Francis and Joe Biden and the first in which Biden is President. Biden is only the second Catholic to serve as US President, the first being John Kennedy. The first meeting with Biden took place at the inaugural Mass of the pontificate on March 19, 2013; then the two met two years later, in 2015, during Francis’s visit to the United States, first to the White House and then to Congress. In 2016, the third meeting was on April 29 in the Vatican, where Biden participated in the World Summit dedicated to regenerative medicine. Added to this is the Pontiff’s phone call, in November 2020, to the newly elected President of the United States for congratulations. Biden’s staff had announced that the president thanked the Pope and expressed appreciation “for His Holiness’s leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation and the common bonds of humanity throughout the world.”

From 1919 to today, six Popes have received a US president in the Vatican: Benedict XV, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. The last three Popes also met, officially, an American leader in US territory., according to Vatican News.