President Joe Biden arrived at the Vatican at about 12 p.m. on Friday. He arrived with First Lady Jill Biden and both were received by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, head of the Papal Household, and other Vatican officials when their limousine pulled up at the Apostolic Palace courtyard, CNN reports.
No live press coverage of Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis was allowed, and this generated an outcry from US and Vatican journalists. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said press coverage protocols had been changed for visiting heads of governments since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The point where Biden greeted the pope was not broadcast, and when they sat to commence their discussion in the Throne Room was also not broadcast live. Vatican officials said the video footage of some aspects of the meeting will be provided to accredited media agencies after the two heads of state have finished their conference.
While it is conventional for most people to kill the pope’s ring at a personal meeting with him, it is not expected that Biden will do so. He did not do it at previous meetings with the Head of the Catholic Church, and it is not expected that he will do it now. In fact, Biden said he could not kiss the pope’s ring because his mother warned him not to since no one is better than himself.
Biden is the second Catholic US president and has met with Pope Francis about four previous times. Before Francis, Biden had met with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He met with John Paul when he was a Senator and with Benedict when he was vice president. He attended Francis’ investiture in Rome in 2013 and also saw him in 2016 when he attended the Third International Regenerative Medicine Conference in Italy.
A staunch Catholic who makes the sign of the cross very frequently, President Biden and Pope Francis became closer friends when the pope called him over the loss of his son, Beau, to cancer. He has a photo of the pope displayed in the Oval Office and religiously attends Mass every week. He told Stephen Colbert in December that he admires the pope a lot.
“He didn’t just speak about Beau, he spoke in detail about Beau, about who he was and about family values and about forgiveness and decency,” Biden stated in admiration. “I am a great admirer of His Holiness. I really am.”
With his recent visit to Rome, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president and the pope will discuss matters of national and global importance – mostly in areas where they have a consensus.
“There’s a great deal of agreement and overlap with the President and Pope Francis on a range of issues – poverty, combating the climate crisis, ending the Covid-19 pandemic,” Psaki said. “These are all hugely important, impactful issues that will be the centerpiece of their discussion when they meet.”