Pope Francis will receive Joe Biden as president on Friday for the first time. The president has already been in the Vatican two other times as vice president and also received the pontiff in the United States Congress in 2015 when he made a speech before the two Houses in joint session. Biden is the first Catholic president of the United States since John. F. Kennedy, something that will bring a lot of closeness to the meeting. But above all, he is the man who ended the era of Donald Trump, turned in recent years into a sort of ideological and political adversary of Francis on issues such as the environment, immigration or human rights.
The two most influential Catholics in the world will meet at 12.00 in the Library of the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican (without live images of the meeting prior to the meeting, as usually happens). The official agenda talks about the environment, human rights, pandemic and aid to the underprivileged. But the appointment also has a high symbolic relevance and clearly certifies the relief in the Vatican by the arrival of Biden to the White House. Most of the political and ideological tensions experienced in recent times in the Holy See had their epicenter on the other side of the Atlantic, where a majority of bishops and cardinals have developed open opposition to the pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. A confrontation that always found support in much of the Trump Administration and its ideological circles.
The confrontation between Rome and some of the US dioceses, which has reached unprecedented heights compared to any other papacy, has found a fabulous echo in some Catholic media, amplifying the discrepancies. The Pope, in fact, complained on the return trip from his passage through Slovakia that an American television – it seemed to refer to the EWTN network – constantly spread rumors about him and that he was the work of the devil. The same circles of power – ecclesial and media – are those that asked that Biden be denied communion for defending the legality of abortion in the United States. same flight. “I have never refused to give it [la comunión]”, He pointed out, adding that he had not come across any case in which he was aware that the woman in question had miscarried.
Biden is a devout Catholic, much more so than Kennedy was. He attends mass regularly and takes his faith very seriously. It has always been placed in the reformist orbit of John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. An active spiritual life, also marked by the death of a son. But Biden is not a conservative on social and sexual matters. The openness to the right to abortion for women, precisely, separates them enormously from the Holy See and the Pope, who always uses harsh terms against those who practice it. “It’s like hiring a hit man to solve a problem,” he often says.
The coincidences will come hand in hand with environmental issues, such as the return of the United States to the Paris climate agreement. Francis has been immersed for several months in an attempt to mobilize heads of state and leaders of the great religions – who came to Rome on October 4 to make an appeal, together with leading scientists – and the participants in COP26 on climate change , to be held in Glasgow on Sunday. That’s where Biden will be heading after the G20 summit in Rome. The visit can also serve to iron out positions in this regard and reinforce the commitment of the American politician to the Pope’s vision on the environment, contained in the encyclical Laudato Sii, which has never been embraced with excessive enthusiasm in the United States.
The meeting can also certify a different approach to immigration (opposition to the wall with Mexico was a workhorse for the Pope). The defense of the disadvantaged and refugees has been the backbone of Bergoglio’s papacy. But, for the moment, the Holy See has not seen substantial changes, and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops from that country has created problems of this type that did not exist before.
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The Vatican signed a historic agreement with China two years ago for the integration of the Church in a legal framework and agreed with the Government. It is also a first step to reopen diplomatic relations that have been frozen for 70 years. The vacuum in cultural and religious hegemony left by the Trump Administration undoubtedly helped Beijing to greet the negotiation with more enthusiasm than it initially had. The experiment has had its ups and downs, but it continues to advance and has brought the Holy See enormously closer to the Chinese Government. The reluctance for that approach, in that there is no doubt, will continue in the era of Biden.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.