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Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 29, 2021
US President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Vatican Media via AP)

Following a lengthy meeting with Pope Francis, President Joe Biden said on Friday that the pope told him he is a “good Catholic” and encouraged him to continue receiving Communion.

“We just talked about the fact he was happy I was a good Catholic and keep receiving Communion,” Mr. Biden said.

Some bishops in the United States have said Mr. Biden’s support for abortion rights should bar him from receiving Communion. Next month, U.S. bishops are expected to vote on a document about the Eucharist that some bishops have said is needed to address Catholic politicians who deviate from church teaching.

Following a lengthy meeting with Pope Francis, President Joe Biden said on Friday that the pope told him he is a “good Catholic” and encouraged him to continue receiving Communion.

While the president regularly attends Mass, his comments in Rome mark a departure from his practice of largely avoiding discussing the Communion question in public.

When asked Friday if he has talked to U.S. bishops about the issue, Mr. Biden said, “That’s a private conversation.” He said that he and Pope Francis did not discuss abortion during their meeting. According to statements issued by both the White House and the Vatican following the meeting, the pair discussed climate change, Covid-19 and international conflict.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Mr. Biden called the meeting “wonderful” and said he and the pope prayed for peace. While the president did not receive Communion on Friday—which would have been unprecedented for this kind of meeting—he said the pope blessed rosary beads.

When asked Friday if he has talked to U.S. bishops about the issue, Mr. Biden said, “That’s a private conversation.”

According to the Vatican, during their meeting Mr. Biden presented Francis with a woven chasuble, or liturgical vestment, made in 1930 by the famed papal tailor Gammarelli and used by the pope’s Jesuit order in the U.S., where it was held in the archives of Holy Trinity Church, Biden’s regular parish in Washington. The White House said it would make a donation to charity in the pope’s name.

Biden also slipped what’s known as a challenge coin into the pope’s palm during a handshake, and hailed Francis as “the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”

The personalized coin depicts Biden’s home state of Delaware and a reference to his late son Beau’s military unit, the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade. Biden told Francis that Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, would have wanted him to present the coin to the pope.

Biden also what’s known as a challenge coin into the pope’s palm during a handshake, and hailed Francis as “the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”

“The tradition is, and I’m only kidding about this, but next time I see you, if you don’t have it, you have to buy the drinks,” Biden said, referring to the coin. He added: “I’m the only Irishman you’ve ever met who’s never had a drink.”

Francis laughed and responded: “The Irish brought whiskey.”

Biden, 78, also relayed the story of American baseball player Satchel Paige, a Black pitcher who played late into his fifties, in a parable about aging. “‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Biden quoted Paige as saying. “You’re 65, I’m 60,” Biden added, as Francis, 84, pointed to his head and laughed.

Francis presented Biden with a ceramic tile depicting the iconography of the pilgrim, as well as a collection of the pope’s main teaching documents, the Vatican said. In the Vatican video, he could be heard asking Jill Biden to “pray for me.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.



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