Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2021 / 09:02 am (CNA).
The White House has confirmed that President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will meet with Pope Francis on Oct. 29 at the Vatican.
According to a Thursday statement by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the Bidens will discuss several issues with the pope, including “ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.”
The Oct. 29 event would mark the first meeting with the pope during Biden’s presidency. Biden, a Catholic, previously met with Pope Francis in 2016 as vice president. He spoke on the phone with Pope Francis on Nov. 12, 2020, where the pope congratulated him on his election as president.
Pope Francis has met with other top U.S. officials in-person this year. He met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Catholic, on Oct. 9 at the Vatican during Pelosi’s international travels. According to the Speaker’s office, that discussion focused mostly on climate change.
In June, Pope Francis met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a 40-minute private audience at the Vatican. According to the State Department, the two discussed China, as well as “the humanitarian crises in Lebanon, Syria, the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and Venezuela.” Blinken also thanked the pope for his “leadership” on the issue of the environment.
After Biden’s election to the presidency, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, noted some areas of agreement and disagreement between Biden and the conference on policy issues.
“For only the second time, we are anticipating a transition to a president who professes the Catholic faith. This presents certain opportunities but also certain challenges,” Gomez said at the bishops’ virtual fall meeting in November 2020.
“The president-elect has given us reason to believe that his faith commitments will move him to support some good policies. This includes policies of immigration reform, refugees and the poor, and against racism, the death penalty, and climate change,” Gomez said.
“He has also given us reason to believe that he will support policies that are against some fundamental values that we hold dear as Catholics. These policies include: the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the preservation of Roe vs. Wade. Both of these policies undermine our preeminent priority of the elimination of abortion,” said Gomez.
Biden submitted a budget request earlier this year without the Hyde Amendment, thus seeking to allow federal funding of abortion in Medicaid. His administration has also sought to loosen restrictions on funding of abortion providers in the Title X program, and has allowed for federal funding of international pro-abortion groups in U.S. global health assistance.
He has issued statements supporting the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas after the state’s pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect on Sept. 1.
His administration has also fought in court to reinstate the “transgender mandate,” a requirement that doctors provide gender-transitioning procedures upon the referral of a mental health professional, whether or not they are opposed to the procedures.
He also signed an executive order interpreting federal civil rights law to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal experts have warned that his sweeping order would mandate that sex-specific spaces – such as women’s locker rooms, bathrooms, and sports – be open to biological males identifying as transgender females.
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