The meeting agenda between the two most prominent Catholic leaders in the world included the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and poverty, among other topics. In addition, it was the most extended interview that the pontiff had with a US president.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, met with Pope Francis this Friday at the Vatican for the first time as President of the North American country on a two-day G20 summit in Rome.
The meeting lasted 90 minutes, according to the White House. It was the most extended meeting that Francisco had with an American president. With Barack Obama, he had talked for 52 minutes, while with Donald Trump half an hour.
In addition to the President, the meeting was also attended by the First Lady, Jill Biden, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, the Charge d'Affaires ad interim, Patrick Connell, the Deputy Chief of Staff, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, Senior Advisor to the President, Michael Donilon, Director Oval Room Operations, AnnMarie Tomasini, Assistant to the President and Advisor to the First Lady, Anthony Bernal, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe, Amanda Sloat, the President's doctor, Kevin O'Connor, and Acting Chief of Protocol Asel Roberts.
The Vatican said the private meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes. Then, another 15 minutes were devoted to photographs and the exchange of gifts in the presence of other members of the delegation, such as Biden's wife, Jill.
Biden shares positions on the environment, poverty, and pandemic with the pontiff, whom he had met three times as vice president.
In the private library of the Apostolic Palace, the meeting was set on the eve of the two-day summit in Rome with the Heads of State and Government of the 20 largest economies in the world, the G20. On Thursday night, the Holy See abruptly announced that the event would not have journalistic coverage by the accredited media.
The American leader will then go to Glasgow (United Kingdom) to participate in the critical United Nations COP26 climate summit.
According to a statement from the White House, the head of the Catholic Church and the US president "will discuss how to work together on initiatives based on respect for fundamental human dignity including the elimination of the covid 19 pandemic, the fight against the climate and compassion for the poor".
It will be a "warm" meeting, announced Wednesday its spokesperson, Jen Psaki, who recalled that the President, a fervent Catholic, "found strength in his faith" in the face of the tragedies of his life: the accidental death of his first wife and daughter and then the death of her son Beau from cancer.
Biden, who travels accompanied by his second wife Jill, rarely misses Sunday mass. His positions on some issues are more akin to the Argentine pope than those of his predecessor Donald Trump.
Despite President Biden being the second Catholic President after John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), the deeply divided American Catholic Church has begun an offensive to deprive political leaders who support the abortion of communion, including Biden.
A TOPIC OF CARE
Will they address the issue that most divides them, such as the right to abortion? Vatican affairs observers wondered.
The positions are very dissimilar. Pope Francis recently came to brand the voluntary termination of pregnancy as "murder." Still, at the same time, he distanced himself from the initiative of the US bishops against politicians who support abortion rights.
"Communion is not a prize for the perfect, Communion is a gift, it is a gift," and the one who cannot take communion is the one who "is not within the community," the pontiff explained in September after being questioned about the matter during the return trip from Slovakia.
Biden will then have to meet with the head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi, the host of the G20 summit and former President of the European Central Bank, who arouses much curiosity in the United States about his reform projects. Praised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the US bank Goldman Sachs, some US media paint him a new star on the European political scene.
THE NEW IMAGE
For Biden, who has lost popularity since his election, the G20, as well as the tremendous COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on climate change, are an occasion to relaunch his image and definitively bury the Trump era.
This same Friday, he will meet privately in Rome with French President Emmanuel Macron to turn the page on the severe crisis over submarine contracts in mid-September and seal the reconciliation.
Along with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, that issue weighs heavily on Biden's aura, who repeats that "America is back" on the international scene.