President Joe Biden said Friday that he did not discuss abortion with Pope Francis, adding that the pope told him to continue receiving communion.
Biden spoke with the Pope Francis for roughly 90 minutes in Vatican City. The Vatican abruptly cancelled its planned live-stream Thursday, and the event was closed to the press in a move that sparked some outcry from reporters covering Biden’s second foreign trip since taking office.
The Catholic president’s pro-choice beliefs and policies have been a source of contention for Biden, with the majority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approving a measure in June to draft a statement discussing whether pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion.
“We just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic,” Biden told reporters after his lengthly meeting with Pope Francis, confirming the two did not discuss abortion.
The president also said the pope told him to “keep receiving communion” – an important note due to Pope Francis’ unwillingness to engage in the debate publicly. (RELATED: Biden Says Catholic Bishops Won’t Vote To Deny Him Communion)
Biden reversed his stance on the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions, during the 2020 campaign but has since indicated he’d be open to signing the reconciliation bill with or without its inclusion. The president has been openly against Texas’ recent abortion law, calling it a blatant violation of Roe vs. Wade in September.
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) October 29, 2021
White House press secretary Jen Psaki hinted prior to Biden’s trip that abortion may not be a topic of discussion, despite it being a big topic since the president took office. She told reporters that the president and the pope are on different sides of the coin on the subject and named various “hugely important, impactful issues” that would be the focus of the meeting.
“But what I wanted to note, since you follow this closely, is that there’s 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,” Psaki said earlier in the week.
The White House issued a brief, general readout of the meeting and said Biden “thanked His Holiness for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution.”
“He lauded Pope Francis’ leadership in fighting the climate crisis, as well as his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery,” the White House added.
Meanwhile, an administration described the engagement between the two as “very warm.”
“There was laughter and clear rapport between President Biden and Pope Francis,” the official said.