President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived at the Vatican Friday for their closed-door meeting with Pope Francis.
‘It’s good to be back,’ the president told one of the Papal gentlemen. ‘I’m Jill’s husband,’ he also said, which is one of his trademark greetings.
The meeting comes after the Vatican abruptly canceled a planned live broadcast of the meeting – and White House reporters were left standing outside in the courtyard.
The Vatican press office provided no explanation for why press coverage was limited to the president’s motorcade arriving in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, the head of Papal Household, greeted him.
Cancelled was any live coverage of Biden actually greeting the pope in the palace Throne Room, as well as the live footage of the two men sitting down to begin their private talks in Francis’ library.
The Vatican said it would provide edited footage of the encounter.
The Bidens’ motorcade was 85 cars long, due to Italian COVID-19 rules, which only allow four people per vehicle.
The first lady wore a traditional mantilla veil with an animal print dark suit.
Biden, the country’s second Catholic president, will meet with the pope amid pressures from conservatives in the American church who want to admonish politicans who support abortion rights but take communion.
Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza (right) welcomes President Joe Biden (center) and First Lady Jill Biden (left) to the Vatican Friday for their meeting with Pope Francis
The Pope’s gentlemen (right) greet President Joe Biden (second from left) and First Lady Jill Biden (left) upon their arrival Friday at the Vatican
President Joe Biden (center) and First Lady Jill Biden (left) arrive at the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican in Rome
First Lady Jill Biden wore a traditional mantilla veil with an animal print dark suit
‘I’m Jill’s husband,’ President Joe Biden said introducing himself to the Papal gentlemen
The motorcade of President Joe Biden drives across the Via della Conciliazione in Rome
The Swiss Guards prepare for the arrival of President Joe Biden for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican
President Joe Biden arrives in the San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican for his planned meeting with Pope Francis
People line the streets of Rome along the motorcade route of President Joe Biden
Biden, a devout Catholic, attends weekly mass and Catholic holy days. He carries rosary beads that belonged to his deceased son Beau and he keeps a photo of himself and the Pope behind his desk in the Oval Office in the first row of pictures next to ones with his family.
It’s the fourth time the two men have met and was Biden’s first stop on his five-day trip to Europe. He’ll also attend the G20 meeting in Rome over the weekend before heading to Scotland on Monday for the UN Climate Summit known was COP26.
Biden’s sitdown with Pope Francis comes as his administration is fighting Texas’ abortion law, the most restrictive law in the nation, which bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected and that is normally after six weeks and before many women even know they are pregnant.
Meanwhile, shortly after Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will convene in Baltimore in mid-November where it will debate whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be admonished for receiving Communion.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wouldn’t say whether or not Biden would receive communion during his Vatican visit.
‘That’s very personal,’ she said. ‘I don’t have anything to share about that.’
The Swiss Guards prepare for the arrival of President Joe Biden for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican
President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, keeps a photo of himself and Pope Francis on his desk in the Oval Office, it can be seen above to the left of the president
President Biden and First Lady Jill touched down in Rome at 2:30 am local time
Then Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Pope Francis (right), with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell standing behind them, wave from a balcony at the U.S. Capitol after the Pope addressed a joint-session of Congress in September 2015
In June, the divided U.S. Conference of Bishiops voted to draft a statement on communion that some bishops say should specifically admonish these Catholic politicians, including Biden, the second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy. They did so despite warning from the Vatican such a move could sow seeds of discord. The bishops will discuss the issue further at their November gathering.
Joe Biden’s meetings with Pope Francis
Here are the previous meetings between Joe Biden and Pope Francis:
2013: Inaugural mass at the Vatican where Biden was accompanied by sister Valerie Biden
2015: Pope’s visit to Washington
2016: Conference on regenerative medicine, where he spoke on cancer prevention. Hunter Biden and Ashley’s husband came along
Biden takes communion. He has said he is personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose his views as an elected leader.
It’s unclear if Biden and Pope Francis will discuss abortion at their private meeting on Friday, their first since Biden became president. Francis has strongly upheld the church’s opposition to abortion, calling it ‘murder.’
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the two men will discuss climate change, migration and income inequality.
And White House Jen Paski said the two men would focus on what areas they have in common.
‘There is a great deal of agreement and overlap with the President and Pope Francis on a range of issues: poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the COVID-19 pandemic. These are all hugely important, impactful issues that will be the centerpiece of what their discussion is when they meet,’ she said.
Biden will also meet with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, while at the Vatican.
First lady Jill Biden will join the president for his audience with the pope.
Then-Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Pope Francis in September 2015 when the pope addressed a joint session of Congress
Pope Francis (left) greets then Vice President Joe Biden (right) at the Vatican in April 2016, before President Donald Trump was elected. Biden’s son Hunter (second from right) and son-in-law Howard Krein (center) stand along his side
Biden talked about his relationship with Pope Francis last October when he addressed the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, doing so from Wilmington’s Queen theater because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Biden talked about his first meeting with Pope Francis during the Pope’s 2013 inauguration at the Vatican when Biden was vice presdient.
‘When I greeted him he said, “Mr. Vice President you’re always welcome here,”‘ Biden said. ‘He was really sending a message to the world to put out a welcome sign in the front door of our church.’
Biden also mentioned Pope Francis’ trip to the White House in 2015 – when he was in office with President Barack Obama – saying that like his visit to the Vatican in 2013, it gave him the sense of ‘hope and possibility together.’
‘And for me it came at a very personal moment, a very tough time in the life of my family. Our son Beau had just died a few months earlier,’ Biden said. ‘Pope Francis took the time to meet with my entire family to help us see the light through the darkness.’
Biden, as vice president, also traveled to the Vatican in April 2016 for a stem cell conference.
At the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner, Biden said that his friendship with Pope Francis was proof that ‘anything is possible’ in the U.S.
‘I live in an amazing country, we all live in an amazing country,’ Biden said. ‘Where an Irish-Catholic kid like me from Scranton, Pennsylvania would one day befriend a Jesuit Pope.’
‘But that’s who we are as a country,’ Biden said.
Past presidential meetings with popes
Here are some notable moments from past presiential meetings with pontifs:
-President John F. Kennedy´s 1963 meeting with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican was historic: The first Roman Catholic president of the United States was seeing the Roman Catholic pontiff only days after his coronation. Kennedy, who faced anti-Catholic bias during his presidential campaign, shook hands with the pope rather than kissing his ring, as is the usual practice for Catholics.
-Pope Paul VI´s trip to New York in October 1965 presented protocol problems. President Lyndon Johnson wanted to see him, but the pontiff was a chief of a state not officially recognized by the U.S. The solution: Johnson flew to New York for dinner at the apartment of his friend Arthur Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the pontiff was welcomed to Johnson´s suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel the next day.
-Johnson had a penchant for somewhat odd papal presents. At that 1965 meeting, his gifts to Paul included a silver-framed, autographed photograph of himself. Two years later, at their next meeting at the Vatican, Johnson presented the pontiff with a foot-high bust of himself.
-Jimmy Carter was the first president to play host to a pope at the White House. Pope John Paul II’s stay at the White House featured 10,000 guests — split between separate arrival and departure ceremonies on the North and South Lawns.
-President Ronald Reagan had trouble keeping his eyes open on his first visit to the Vatican in 1982. Reagan´s head bobbed and his eyes repeatedly closed for seconds at a time while John Paul talked solemnly of crises in the Falkland Islands and Lebanon. The incident came during a 10-day European trip with a packed schedule for Reagan. But it fed already rampant talk that the 71-year-old president wasn´t physically up to the job.
-Reagan sparked controversy over the separation of church and state in 1984 by establishing formal U.S. diplomatic relations with the Vatican, a long desire of the Holy See. Shortly afterward, Reagan and John Paul met during refueling stops at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska (their paths were crossing as one finished and one began trips to Asia). The Alaska stop generated lots of excitement, but also scores of T-shirts reading ‘The Pope Meets the Dope.’
-For his last of four meetings with Pope John Paul, President Bill Clinton flew to St. Louis to greet the pontiff as he began a U.S. tour. Back in Washington, the Senate was in the throes of its impeachment trial against Clinton, and John Paul said ‘America faces a time of trial.’ But it was generally assumed that the pontiff, who also challenged Americans to ‘a higher moral vision,’ was speaking about his long-running and sharp dispute with Clinton over the president’s support for abortion rights.
-At George W. Bush´s last meeting with John Paul, at the Vatican in June 2004, he presented the pope with the Medal of Freedom, the nation´s highest civilian honor. The pontiff responded by reading a statement about his ‘grave concern’ over events in Iraq, where the U.S.-led war had been going on for just over a year.
-After John Paul died in 2005, Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to attend a papal funeral.
-At his first audience with John Paul´s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, Bush´s overly casual behavior was noted by many Italians and Vatican watchers. He addressed the pope as ‘sir,’ rather than the customary ‘your holiness,’ and leaned far back in his chair with one leg thrown informally over another, instead of the ramrod-straight physical posture more commonly seen in the pontiff´s presence. Rome´s ANSA agency flashed a ‘Gaffe Presidente’ headline.
-For Benedict´s first U.S. tour as pope, there were several presidential firsts: Bush traveled to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to meet the pontiff´s plane, brought the largest crowd of his presidency to the South Lawn for Benedict´s arrival ceremony, and hosted a dinner in the pope´s honor that Benedict didn’t attend.
-Former President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis twice, once at the Vatican in 2014 and again during the pope´s 2015 visit to the U.S., where Obama met Francis on the tarmac at Andrews and played host in the Oval Office. Before 11,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House, Obama praised the pope as a ‘living example of Jesus´ teachings,’ while Francis lauded Obama for his commitment to addressing climate change.
-Former President Donald Trump had a famously prickly relationship with Pope Francis. The two sparred during the 2016 campaign, with Francis taking a veiled swipe at Trump by declaring that people who think only of building barriers instead of bridges are ‘not Christian.’ Trump, who campaigned on building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, called the comments ‘disgraceful’ and suggested the Mexican government was using Francis as a pawn. When the two met at the Vatican in 2017, photos showed a stone-faced Francis standing next to a grinning Trump. The president later said their meeting had been ‘fantastic.’
– The Associated Press
In this July 2, 1963, file photo President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI talk at the Vatican. Kennedy’s meeting with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican was historic: the first Roman Catholic president of the United States was seeing the Roman Catholic pontiff only days after his coronation
In this March 27, 2014 file photo, Pope Francis and President Barack Obama smile as they meet at the Vatican
In this June 13, 2008, file photo, Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush walk in the Vatican Gardens during their meeting at the Vatican
In this May 24, 2017, file photo Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican