Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

White House acknowledges Biden and Pope Francis do not agree on abortion

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President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president's pro-abortion policies. 

The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key part of his trip to Italy for the G20, told reporters details of their discussions. 

Biden said that Francis told him that he should keep receiving communion. The president said the pope blessed his rosary, and added that they discussed fighting climate change as part of his Build Back Better agenda. 

"We just talked about the fact that he was happy I'm a good Catholic," Biden said. "And I should keep receiving communion." 

Biden said that the pope did not give him communion during the meeting. 

BIDEN TO MEET POPE FRANCIS AMID SCRUTINY OF PRO-ABORTION POLICIES

An expanded meeting with Biden, cardinals and White House aides began shortly after the one-on-one meeting, according to reporters traveling with the president.

US President Joe Biden, left, talks with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.  (Vatican Media via AP)

US President Joe Biden, left, talks with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.  (Vatican Media via AP) (Vatican Media via AP)

"It's good to be back," Biden, traveling with first lady Jill Biden, said as he arrived Friday.

Biden gave Pope Francis a "challenge coin." 

"I'm not sure this is appropriate, but there is a tradition in America that the president, that he gives to warriors and leaders," Biden said. "You are the most significant warrior for peace I've ever met, and I'd like to be able to give you a coin." 

Biden said the coin "has the U.S. seal on the front." 

"I know my son would want me to give this to you," Biden said, referring to his late son Beau, who passed away in 2015 from brain cancer. 

"Tradition, is and I'm kidding, next time I see you, if you don't have it, you have to buy the drinks," Biden joked. "I'm the only Irish man you've ever met who has never had a drink." 

The president has met Pope Francis several times before their meeting Friday – including in September 2015, when the pope attended the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and at the Vatican in 2016, when then-Vice President Biden participated in a regenerative medicine summit.

Biden is the first Catholic president in more than 50 years. President John F. Kennedy Jr. was the last Catholic president. 

Biden has been scrutinized for his support of abortion policies. Over the summer, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted overwhelmingly to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist after a contentious debate on whether Biden and other politicians supportive of abortion policies are worthy of receiving Communion. The vote tally was 168 bishops in favor, 55 opposed and six bishops abstaining. 

US President Joe Biden, left, exchanges gifts with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Vatican Media via AP)

US President Joe Biden, left, exchanges gifts with Pope Francis as they meet at the Vatican, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Vatican Media via AP) (Vatican Media via AP)

When asked whether the two discussed the conference of bishops, the president told reporters Friday that is "a private conversation." 

WHITE HOUSE ACKNOWLEDGES BIDEN AND POPE ON DIFFERENT PAGE ON ABORTION

Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn't think he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise. He's taken several executive actions during his presidency that were hailed by pro-choice advocates.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki this week said that the two would discuss a range of issues on which they agree during their upcoming visit, and that abortion would not be one of them.

"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, explaining that Biden, who is pro-choice, does not have the same view on abortion as the pope. 

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"We expect a warm and constructive dialogue," Psaki told reporters. "You are familiar with where the president stands. He's somebody who stands up for and believes that a woman's right to choose is important. The pope has spoken differently."

At least two-thirds of the U.S. bishops would have to vote to adopt the new language at their next gathering slated for November. The decision on whether Biden should be allowed to receive Communion would still be left up to individual bishops, as is standard for all churchgoers, but a new document would inform those decisions.

Any document that the bishops adopt when they convene in Baltimore next month is unlikely to mention Biden or any other politician by name.

Just days after the bishops' vote, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., where the Bidens attend Mass when he is in the nation's capital, said the church "will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it."

BIDEN-POPE FRANCIS MEETING: VATICAN CANCELS PLANS FOR LIVE BROADCAST WITHOUT EXPLANATION

"As Pope Francis recently reaffirmed, communion should be viewed ‘not as a prize for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,'" the church quoted the pope as saying. "None of us, whether we stand in the pews or behind the altar, is worthy to receive it. The great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to be made a political issue."

The president and first lady are expected to spend two hours at the Vatican Friday. Following their meeting with Pope Francis, the president is set to participate in a bilateral program with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Biden is then expected to meet with French President Emanuel Macron on Friday, before participating in the G20 Leaders' Summit.