Biden Chokes Up as He Praises Pope Francis for His Friendship
(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden, the second Catholic to serve as U.S. president, emotionally recounted his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican and spoke passionately about the support he’s provided over the years.
“He is everything I learned about Catholicism from the time I was a kid going from grade school through high school,” Biden, who attended Catholic schools throughout his childhood, said Sunday at a press conference at the end of the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Rome, which he’d also used as an opportunity to visit Vatican City. “He is just a fine, decent honorable man. And we keep in touch.”
Biden largely sidestepped a question about efforts by conservative U.S. bishops to ban him from receiving communion because of his support for legalized abortion, noting that popes since John XXIII, who served from 1958 to 1963, have talked about “how we reach out and embrace people with differences.” He mentioned that when Francis was asked about his views on homosexuality, he said, “Who am I to judge?”
A few hours after his Friday meeting with the pope, Biden offered a bit more insight into where Francis stands on the U.S. bishops’ efforts, saying the pope told him he should continue receiving communion.
While Biden said he didn’t want to get too “personal” about Francis’s significance to him, he offered two personal stories about their relationship.
Francis “provided great solace for my family” after his elder son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, Biden said. “I lost the real part of my soul when I lost my Beau, my son,” he said, choking up.
When Francis visited the U.S. just a few months after Beau’s death, he spent meaningful time with Biden, who was then vice president, and his extended family.
“He didn’t just generically talk about him. He knew about him. He knew what he did. He knew who he was. He knew where he went to school. He knew what what a man he was,” the president recalled. “It had such a cathartic impact on his children and my wife and our family that it meant a great deal.”
Biden also offered some details of the congratulatory call he received from the pope after after he won the presidency last November. “He called to tell me how much he appreciated the fact that I would focus on the poor and focus on the needs of people who are in trouble,” the president said.
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