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President Biden to Meet With Pope Francis Amid Historic Rift With American Bishops

President Biden to Meet With Pope Francis Amid Historic Rift With American Bishops

The world’s two most prominent Roman Catholics are set to meet at the Vatican next week during a time of intense scrutiny from both within and outside the Church.

President Joe Biden is set to meet Pope Francis when he visits the Vatican later this month as part of a five-day swing through Italy and the U.K. for global economic and climate change meetings.

President Biden plans to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis, and poverty during his meeting with the pope, according to the White House. The meeting will take place on Oct. 29, and Biden will then attend a two-day summit of G-20 leaders in Rome, before heading to Glasgow, Scotland for the U.N. climate conference known as COP26.

The President, who is Roman Catholic, often speaks of his faith in public and attends Mass every weekend. But his political views, including his support for gay marriage and abortion rights, have at times put him at odds with Catholic doctrine and brought controversy and criticism from some leaders of the Catholic church. Pope Francis shares many of the President’s more liberal opinions, which also doesn’t sit well with several U.S. bishops.

Less than three weeks after President Biden’s visit to the Vatican next Friday, the American bishops will convene in Baltimore, with one of the agenda items inspired in part by conservatives who contend that the President’s support for abortion rights should disqualify him from receiving Communion. Though any document that emerges is not expected to mention President Biden by name, it’s possible there could be a clear message of rebuke to both the President and First Lady, who will also be joining her husband when he meets with the Pope.

The Pope upholds Catholic doctrine opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, but he has irked some conservative Catholics in the U.S. and elsewhere by emphasizing other issues that mesh with President Biden’s priorities — protecting the environment, combating racial injustice and poverty, for example. The Pope and the President see eye to eye on many issues while they both face very strong headwinds while fighting against different kinds of ideologies.

President Biden is only the second Catholic president of the United States., after John F. Kennedy, and displays his faith openly, often wearing a rosary and attending Mass routinely. The devotion dates to childhood; he has expressed gratitude to the nuns who helped bolster his confidence while he struggled with stuttering as a schoolboy.

“Wherever there were nuns, there was home,” he wrote in his 2007 memoir “Promises to Keep.” “My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion.”

 

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