VATICAN CITY — President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday.
Biden arrived at the Vatican with his wife, Jill, and said, "It's good to be back.”
The world's two most notable Roman Catholics discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and poverty during their session.
“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,” the White House said in a statement. “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.”
The one-on-one meeting ended up lasting about 75 minutes, an unusually long time for an audience with the pontiff.
The session took place behind closed doors Friday after the Vatican abruptly canceled a live broadcast of a portion of the meeting. According to The Associated Press, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said canceling the public portion of the meeting reflected "normal procedure" amid the pandemic.
The AP reports that previously, reporters had planned to offer live coverage of Biden actually greeting Francis in the Apostolic Palace Throne Room, as well as live footage of the two men sitting down to begin their private talks in Francis' library.
The president takes pride in his Catholic faith and uses it as a moral guidepost to shape many of his social and economic policies. But his support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage has put him at odds with many U.S. bishops.
Since Biden took office in January, U.S. bishops have weighed advising him not to take Communion if he continues to support abortion rights, though they have not yet taken such an action.
Later on Friday, Biden will meet with Italian PM Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron in separate meetings. Over the weekend, Biden will travel to Scotland to attend a U.N. Climate Summit.