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US President Joe Biden lauds Pope Francis, calls him man ‘of great empathy’

"This is a man who is someone who is looking to establish peace and decency and honor, not just in the Catholic Church but just generically"

US President Joe Biden praised Pope Francis on Sunday for his empathy and humanity, calling the pontiff “a fine, decent, honourable man.”

“This is a man who is someone who is looking to establish peace and decency and honor, not just in the Catholic Church but just generically,” Biden said during a press conference at the culmination of the two-day G20 summit in Rome.

Biden, a devout Catholic who regularly attends church, choked up while describing how the pope comforted his family following the 2015 death from cancer of his son, Beau, when Biden was vice president.

During a visit by the pope to the United States later that year, Pope Francis asked if he could meet with Biden’s family, the president recalled.

“And we met in a hangar at the Philadelphia airport and he came in and met with my family for a considerable amount of time… and he talked about my son Beau,” said Biden.

“And he didn’t just generically talk about him, he knew about him… he knew what a man he was,” he said. “It had such a cathartic impact on his children, on my wife and our family. It meant a great deal.”

On Friday ahead of the G20 talks, Biden met Pope Francis for more than an hour at the Vatican, where he presented the pontiff with a presidential coin recalling the regiment in which Beau served.

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The pope, Biden said later, had told him he was “happy I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving Communion.”

Biden said on Sunday that the pope was “everything I learned about Catholicism from the time I was a kid going from grade school through high school.”

“I have great respect for people who have other religious views but he’s just a fine, decent, honorable man, and we keep in touch.”

Pope Francis greets Joe Biden at the Vatican in April 2016. (Vatican Media file photo)

Bishops hit Biden statement on Communion

Meanwhile, a Spanish bishop criticized Biden’ claim that Pope Francis personally encouraged him to continue receiving Communion despite his open support for abortion.

“These incredible statements reveal the moral character of those who are capable of compromising and manipulating the pope with the intention of washing their conscience stained by the blood of so many innocent lives unjustly eliminated,” said Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastián, Spain.

On October 29, Pope Francis received Biden in the Vatican for 75 minutes. The US president told Reuters that Pope Francis told him “to keep receiving Communion.”

The Associated Press reported that Biden received Communion a day later, during a Mass offered at St. Patrick’s Church, an English-speaking church that is the main place the American Catholic community in Rome goes for Mass.

Individual US bishops have issued statements in recent months on Communion for pro-abortion politicians.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said in May that “Sadly, there are some bishops and cardinals of the Church who not only are willing to give holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, but who seek to block the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from addressing the question of Eucharistic coherence.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco stated in May that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should refrain from presenting themselves for Communion.

While Biden was campaigning for president in South Carolina, he was denied Communion at a parish in 2019, in accord with diocesan policy.

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a 2004 memo to US bishops as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that Catholic public officials who publicly campaign for permissive abortion laws should be instructed by their pastor not to present themselves for Communion unless they stop promoting such laws.

If they continue to do so despite the warnings of their pastor, and if they present themselves for Communion, the minister must deny them Communion, Ratzinger noted.

The US bishops voted in June to begin drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.” – with reports from Agence France Presse and Catholic News Agency

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