US President Joseph Biden Friday met in Vatican City with Pope Francis, in an encounter during which climate change and COVID-19 vaccines topped the agenda at the same time the issue of abortion was cautiously overlooked by the Catholic Church's leader and one of his most prominent adherents.
Among those accompanying the Bidens were Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who has had numerous key meetings with South American officials over the past few days.
Friday's was the second time a Catholic US president has met a pontiff, after President John F. Kennedy. Pope Francis called Biden a “good Catholic” and said he should keep receiving communion, despite claims that he should not in view of his approach at abortion. The president has said he personally opposes abortion but will not impose his views on others.
The Vatican, which did not allow public access to the meeting, citing coronavirus concerns, later said in a statement that Francis and Biden had focused “on the joint commitment to the protection and care of the planet, the health care situation and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the theme of refugees and assistance to migrants.”
On the other end of the table, the White House said in a statement that “President Biden thanked His Holiness for his advocacy for the world's poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution. Biden gave Francis a challenge coin with the seal of the United States on one side and the insignia of the president's late son Beau Biden's Delaware National Guard unit on the other. The president told the pontiff that such coins are given to warriors and leaders.
We just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic and keep receiving Communion,” Biden said.
After Biden't stop at the Vatican, he continued meeting with other global leaders as he will at the G20 summit and then COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Biden met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, at Italy's presidential palace, and later with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Biden ended the day by meeting French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom he discussed a controversial nuclear submarine deal involving the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, which has angered France. The deal caused Australia to cancel an agreement to buy non-nuclear submarines from France.