Joe Biden becomes 2nd Catholic U.S. president to meet with pope at Vatican

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Oct. 29 (UPI) — President Joe Biden and Pope Francis are expected to address several issues during their meeting on Friday, including climate change, COVID-19 and the disadvantaged — ahead of two key summits in the coming days.

Friday’s will be Biden’s first meeting with the pope since becoming president. The two met in 2015 while Biden was vice president and the two exchanged a greeting during a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine a year later.

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Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived at the Vatican early Friday afternoon in Rome for the meeting, which is just the second between a Catholic U.S. president and the head of the Catholic Church. The first occurred between President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI in 1963.

Francis and Biden met for the first time during the pontiff’s inauguration after he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013.

The first couple were greeted at the Vatican Friday by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, head of the Papal Household, then went down a receiving line of about a half-dozen Papal Gentlemen to greet them. Biden and the pontiff began their meeting at about noon, the White House said.

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Biden’s meeting with the pope was initially supposed to be broadcast live, but the Vatican abruptly canceled that plan on Thursday. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the change was standard protocol for visiting heads of state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The broadcast was supposed to cover the two meeting in the Throne Room and then sitting down to begin their talks. The White House didn’t address the canceled broadcast.

Also during his visit Friday, Biden will also hold a bilateral meeting with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“[Biden and Pope Francis] will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor,” the White House said in a statement.

In remarks to BBC Radio Friday, Pope Francis said the pandemic and climate crisis provide a chance for countries and their leaders to come together.

“Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed our deep vulnerability and raised numerous doubts and concerns about our economic systems and the way we organize our societies,” he said.

“Every crisis calls for vision, the ability to formulate plans and put them rapidly into action, to rethink the future of the world, our common home, and to reassess our common purpose.”

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After meeting with the pope, Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at Chigi Palace, Italian President Sergio Mattarella at Quirinale Palace and French President Emmanuel Macron at the French Embassy in Rome.

Both meetings come ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit that will begin in Rome on Saturday, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, which begins on Sunday and runs for several days.

Pope Francis is also scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.