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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
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Did Vatican decline Pope-Biden meeting?

June 15, 2021

US President Joe Biden sought to meet with Pope Francis on June 15, but the Vatican turned down the request, according to a report from Catholic News Agency (CNA).

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Citing a “reliable Vatican source,” CNA said that President Biden—who was in Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders—had hoped to travel to Rome for an early-morning Mass celebrated by the Pontiff on Tuesday, before flying to Geneva for meetings later in the day.

The US embassy to the Vatican denied the story. A public-relations officer there told the National Catholic Reporter: “President Biden has no plans to visit Rome or Vatican City this week.”

The Vatican did not comment on the story.

A meeting between the President and the Pontiff would have been particularly newsworthy this week, coming just before the US Conference of Catholic Bishops takes up a discussion of “Eucharistic coherence”—a discussion that would obviously reflect concerns about Biden and his support for unrestricted legal abortion.

Although the National Catholic Reporter insisted that no meeting had been scheduled—and strongly implied that CNA had advanced the story for partisan political purposes—there is reason to believe that the White House might have sought the encounter, and at least some Vatican officials and American prelates might have supported the plan.

A June meeting was not on the published schedule of either the Pope or President Biden. But last-minute arrangements and even unannounced visits do sometimes occur. It is entirely possible that discussions between the White House and the Vatican Secretariat of State were taking place, and no final decision had been reached until the Vatican finally concluded that the visit would be unwise. In that case, both the Vatican and the White House could honestly report that there were never plans for the meeting, and the meeting was not “cancelled” because it was never scheduled.

Earlier this month CNA and the National Catholic Register had reported that discussions were indeed underway, and a June 15 meeting between Biden and the Pope was “likely to occur.” Those earlier stories cited sources in the Vatican Secretariat of State. At the time that story appeared on June 3, the plan for the meeting was described as “unconfirmed.”

President Biden, who has frequently emphasized his Catholic background, would have ample reason for wanting a meeting with the Pontiff. And some American bishops—notably Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich—have actively sought support from the Vatican for their efforts to derail the USCCB discussion of Eucharistic coherence. So it is certainly plausible that some people on both sides would have explored the prospects for a meeting.

On the other hand it is also clear that Vatican diplomats would recognize the dangers of a meeting, particularly at this time, since it would appear to give Biden a papal endorsement at the time when most American bishops want to make it clear that the President’s support for abortion in incompatible with his professed Catholic faith.

 


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  • Posted by: feedback - Jun. 15, 2021 4:50 PM ET USA

    Francis-Biden meeting at this time - a day before the US bishops' meeting - would put a thumb on the scale of the bishops' Holy Communion for "Catholic" politicians debate. Maybe that's what the Democrats hoped for? It could also expose Francis as political activist ...Unless... Francis would be willing to act as Catholic Pope and tell Biden what he needs to hear about abortion, the state of grace, and worthy reception of the Eucharist.