Vatican Cancels Live Broadcast of Biden Meeting Pope

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October 28, 2021

The Vatican on Thursday canceled plans to hold a live broadcast of President Joe Biden's Friday meeting with Pope Francis, the first exchange between the two since Biden became president.

The Vatican press office did not provide a reason for the cancellation but said it will provide edited footage to some news sources, according to the Associated Press. The coverage will only show Biden arriving in his presidential motorcade before disembarking to meet the pope. The cancellation is a noticeable lapse in the Vatican's live coverage of visiting heads of state.

The papal broadcast's cancellation comes as U.S. bishops plan to meet in November to consider, among other concerns, whether Biden's support for abortion should disqualify him from receiving communion. In a statement on Inauguration Day, Archbishop José H. Gomez, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, condemned Biden for pledging to expand access to contraception and abortion.

"Our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender," Gomez said. "Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences."

Pope Francis has upheld the Church's teaching on abortion and condemned it as "murder." The meeting between him and Biden highlights an already tense relationship between American Catholic politicians who support abortion and their faith's leaders. Biden has been denied communion before for his stance on abortion.

The pope met earlier this month with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), who also supports legalized abortion. Their meeting followed Pelosi's legislative push for the Women's Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe v. Wade and in some cases permit abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Pelosi's archbishop in California, Salvatore J. Cordileone, called the bill "nothing short of child sacrifice."

The coronavirus pandemic has limited independent journalistic access to papal audiences, even though media are allowed at other papal events. The meetings usually include an exchange of gifts, and reporters often are able to catch important remarks made between the pope and his guest. The Vatican correspondents' association has criticized the lack of journalistic access to such meetings.

Biden is only the second Catholic U.S. president to be elected since John F. Kennedy's election in 1960. He attends Mass semi-regularly at his parish, St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church, outside Wilmington, Del. He does not always take communion and is often late.