By Jessica Easthope
90 minutes – that’s how long President Biden and Pope Francis spent together, longer than any president in recent history.
Something else unprecedented happened: the initial hellos between the leaders weren’t caught on camera. Despite protest from reporters, the Vatican instead released edited footage of the greeting.
The two men exchanged gifts. President Biden gave Pope Francis a coin with the U.S. seal on one side and the insignia of his late son, Beau Biden’s Delaware National Guard Unit on the other. President Biden told the pontiff the coins are given to warriors and leaders.
“I know my son would want me to give it to you. You’re the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met,” President Biden said.
The two spoke about climate change, global poverty and the ongoing pandemic, but what wasn’t on the agenda – abortion.
President Biden has been criticized by some church leaders on his pro-abortion policies, sparking a debate over whether he should receive communion. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has chosen not to single the president out but instead create a teaching document for all Catholics about the meaning of the Eucharist to the life of the Church.
“Did you discuss the Conference of Bishops,” one reporter asked the President. “That’s a private conversation,” he said.
But after the meeting, President Biden said Pope Francis commended him for continuing to receive the host; however he did not give him communion during their time together.
When asked if abortion came up during the meeting, the president responded, “We just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic and keep receiving Communion.”
At the end of their meeting, Biden joked about their advancing ages. Biden, who is 78, shared a quote from baseball player Satchel Paige with Pope Francis who is 84.
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were,” the president joked.
The USCCB’s teaching document on the Eucharist is being drafted and will be discussed at its next meeting in Baltimore, Maryland in November.