Administration

Biden jokes with Pope about drinks, age, Satchel Paige

President Biden on Friday had a lengthy and warm meeting with Pope Francis, which included jokes, laughter and a gift exchange.

“The engagement between the two was very warm when the delegation arrived in the room. There was laughter and clear rapport between President Biden and Pope Francis,” a White House official said.

During the 90-minute meeting, Biden gave the pope a presidential challenge coin and called him the “most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met,” NBC reported, citing Vatican TV.

“I know my son would want me to give this to you,” Biden said, referring to his late son Beau Biden.

The president also joked with Francis, saying that the next time they see one another the pope has to buy drinks if he doesn’t have the coin. Biden, who doesn’t consume alcohol, joked that he’s the first Irishman the pope has met who doesn’t drink.

The topic of abortion was not discussed during the meeting, Biden told reporters on Friday. The meeting came as U.S. Catholic bishops are debating whether Biden should be denied communion over his stance on the procedure.

 

“No, it didn’t,” he said when asked if abortion came up. “We just talked about the fact that he was happy that I was a good Catholic and … keep receiving communion.” 

When asked if the pope said he should keep receiving communion, the president responded, “yes.”

The two men prayed together, Biden said.

“I did, and he said one for me,” he said when asked whether he said a prayer, adding that he prayed about “peace.”

Biden said the pope blessed his rosary, and that he did not take communion with the pope.

The president gave the pope a handwoven chasuble from 1930 that is held in the archives of the Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C., where Biden attends mass, and is used by the pope’s Jesuit order. The pope gave Biden a ceramic tile and his teaching documents.

Biden spoke to the pope about Satchel Paige, the trailblazing Black baseball pitcher, and made a joke about their ages, CNN reported.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? You’re 65. I’m 60,” Biden said.

This was the fourth meeting between Biden, 78, and Pope Francis, 84.

“God love ya,” Biden said at the end of the meeting.

The White House said that, during the meeting, Biden thanked the pope for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution.

He also “lauded” the pope’s leadership in fighting the climate crisis and his advocacy to ensure an end to the COVID-19 pandemic “through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery.” 

Biden told reporters his meeting was “wonderful” later on Friday when he arrived at a meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

The Vatican released photographs of the two men together and of the pope receiving the gifts from the president. There was no live broadcast of the meeting after the Vatican abruptly canceled plans for it on Thursday.

The last time a president held a one-on-one meeting at the Vatican was former President Trump in 2017, and the meeting lasted half an hour. 

The president also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, and also thanked him for the Vatican’s leadership in fighting the climate crisis. They discussed vaccinating the world against COVID-19. 

Additionally, the president thanked Parolin for speaking out on behalf of those wrongfully detained, notably in Venezuela and Cuba, and they both committed to advocating for personal and religious freedom globally.

—Updated at 11:05 a.m.

Tags Biden Pope visit Biden trip abroad Catholic Church Donald Trump Joe Biden Pope Francis The Pope Vatican Vatican City

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