29 October 2021

Biden on Communion: Who Said What?

Biden claims Francis told him to keep receiving Holy Communion.

From The Pillar

Editor’s note: This story is developing, and will be updated as statements become available.

President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis Friday morning, reportedly talking privately in the pope’s office for nearly 75 minutes.
Pope Francis met with President Joe Biden Oct. 29 at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media.

A remark from President Biden after his meeting with the pope has made international headlines. Biden told reporters that the pope told him to continue receiving Holy Communion — a comment that has stoked considerable reaction, as bishops in the United States have for months been debating “Eucharistic coherence,” and the question of whether Catholic politicians who support legal protection for abortion should be admitted to Holy Communion.

The situation in Rome is still unfolding. But here’s who said what, as of Friday Oct. 29 at 1:15 pm ET:

President Biden

Biden spoke to reporters at the Palazzo Chigi, where the president was scheduled to meet Italy’s prime minister after his meeting with the pontiff. Asked whether the subject of abortion had come up between pope and president discussed abortion, Biden said:

“No, it didn’t. It came up — We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic, and I should keep receiving Communion.”

Biden was then asked directly whether the pope said he should continue receiving communion. Biden said “Yes.”

Biden was subsequently asked whether he had received the Eucharist that day, on Friday. He said no.

The next question was whether Biden and the pope had discussed the U.S. bishops’ conference. The president hesitated for moment, and then said it was a “private conversation.”

The Vatican

After the meeting, the Vatican press office issued a statement, saying that the president “was received in audience by the Holy Father Francis and subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.”

“During the course of the cordial discussions, the Parties focused on the joint commitment to the protection and care of the planet, the healthcare situation, and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the theme of refugees and assistance to migrants. Reference was also made to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience.”

According to the NY Times, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni was asked to confirm Biden’s remarks. Bruni said it was a “private conversation.”

The White House

An Oct 29 White House statement said:

“In his audience with Pope Francis today, President Biden thanked His Holiness for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution. He lauded Pope Francis’ leadership in fighting the climate crisis, as well as his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery.”
U.S. bishops

Neither the U.S. bishops’ conference nor Biden’s own bishops, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington and Bishop William Koenig of Wilmington, have issued statements on the president’s remarks.

But on the bishops’ pending document on the Eucharist, which will be debated at a meeting next month, the USCCB told The Pillar Friday that:

“The statement being developed that the U.S. bishops will discuss at the November meeting is intended to speak to the beauty of meeting Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and is addressed to all Catholics.”

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