Biden, the devout Catholic, and the Pope of his church, Where is the line between the personal and the official in their meeting?


Biden, the devout Catholic, and the Pope of his church, Where is the line between the personal and the official in their meeting?


US President Joe Biden does not hesitate to routinely invoke his Catholic faith. Biden cited Saint Augustine in his inaugural address, and he regularly cites Pope Francesco, who as head of state meets Biden, in a century-old American tradition.

Washington - The meeting of US President Joe Biden and Pope Francis is a unique event, as Biden is the second Catholic American president in history after John F. Kennedy, and the meeting will represent an important moment that brings together the head of the Catholic Church and the head of the largest country in the world, at a time when the percentage of Catholics is close to 25% among Americans .

The meeting between the Pope and the American president became a tradition going back nearly a century, after the end of World War I, when in 1919 President Woodrow Wilson met Pope Benedict XV.

Biden the second Catholic to reach the White House
Hours before President Biden left for Italy to meet with Pope Francesco, a question was asked at a White House news conference about whether the meeting would be "personal or formal," and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan answered "both."

Biden and Pope Francesco met 3 times while the former was Vice President Barack Obama. According to the White House, the two men spoke by phone after Biden won the presidency last November. By meeting Francesco on Friday, Biden will be the third US president to meet him since he was chosen as head of the Vatican in 2013.

The Pope met President Barack Obama in America in 2015, where they discussed issues of immigrants, climate change, and helping the poor. In 2017, Francesco met President Donald Trump, and the Pope had questioned Trump's Christianity due to his populist anti-immigrant policies.

Some observers believe that the issues that concern Biden and Pope Francisco do not depart from 3 main axes, when it comes to how to align and control the policies of the Catholic American president with Catholic teachings,Issues they generally agree on with differences in details, such as the issue of immigration,Issues they agree on, such as the environment and climate.

Issues on which they differ radically, in which Biden's policies conflict with the teachings of the Church, such as abortion and homosexual rights.

Hardcore runners unite them
Biden meets with the Pope at a moment when American political life is dominated by extreme polarization. Hence the two men became joint targets of attacks from powerful conservative American bishops.

And conservative cardinals, appointed before Pope Francesco, also resist and ignore his efforts to redirect the Church's priorities toward inclusion and social justice, away from issues of war and culture such as abortion and homosexual rights.

Efforts to undermine Biden's Catholic cardinals date back hours after his inauguration on January 20, when several American Catholic bishops issued a statement criticizing his support for abortion rights, at a time when the Vatican welcomed Biden's inauguration, and issued a warmer and more welcoming statement to the second Catholic president in history.

Pope's neutrality toward Washington's divisions
The Pope rarely talks about domestic American politics, as evidenced by the killings in many American states, and he rarely misses the opportunity to speak out against the arms trade and the consequences of war.

However, the American left and right currents will study the meeting well to make sure that the Pope does not provide political cover for the first American Catholic president since John F. Kennedy, which might support his liberal social agenda clashing with ecclesiastical teachings, with which half of the American people do not agree.

Pope Francesco clearly has ardent supporters in the United States, especially among the bishops and cardinals he has appointed. But among the total American bishops, the pope's allies do not form a majority, and Vatican officials have expressed concern that a move by the majority of Catholic bishops against a Catholic president could set a dangerous precedent, further dividing American Catholics on political issues, thereby reducing their political influence.

Secularism of the state and the religion of the president
The United States does not have an official religion, the country is officially neutral towards religions, and data on religion is not collected on 10-year census forms. The US Constitution also prohibits any religious requirements in any of the government jobs, including the office of the president.

Despite this, 44 American presidents belonged to the Protestant sect of various major denominations, whether the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, or the aggressive and evangelical Protestants. Historically, many Americans questioned the priority of Catholics' loyalty to the state and their suitability for the post of president, with fear that their first loyalty would be to the Pope.

The importance of Catholics in American life is increasing because most of the new immigrants, estimated at more than one million people annually, come from mainly Catholic countries in Central America such as Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Prior to Biden's accession to the presidency, and throughout the history of the United States spanning more than 245 years, and among 45 American presidents, former President John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic, and succeeded in reaching the White House in 1960 before his assassination in 1963, while none A Catholic candidate to the final stage of the race for the party ticket, except for Democratic Senator John Kerry, who lost to Republican George W. Bush in the 2004 election.

And the presence of a Catholic candidate competing for the presidency does not mean that American Catholics will vote for him, and despite Biden's Catholicism and strong religiosity, this did not constitute a guarantee for him to obtain the support of Catholic voters in the last presidential election, as an Associated Press poll showed that 49% of Catholics voted for President Trump, while Biden received only 50% of their vote.

Biden is a devout Catholic
On the morning of November 3, voting day in the presidential election, Joe Biden prayed in a Catholic parish near his home in Delaware, and late that night, when it became clear that no winner would be decided, Biden spoke To his supporters, he urged them to have patience and trust in the Lord, and demanded that they maintain their faith.

During the presidential election campaign, television advertisements appeared that included images from two meetings of Joe Biden with Pope Francis, and Biden spoke on several occasions with pride that his parents had "instilled in him Catholic values."

He also said that he received a Catholic education in elementary and middle schools while growing up in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Biden was known to make many visits to these schools after graduating from them. He added that his Catholic faith helped him deal with his own personal tragedies including the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, and then again in 2015 when his son Beau died of cancer.

Although John F. Kennedy was a Catholic, he was not famous for practicing Catholic rituals and did not regularly visit the church to pray every Sunday, unlike President Joe Biden, who rarely misses prayer in the church every Sunday.

While Kennedy has done everything he can to ensure that he is secular and not driven by Catholic doctrine, President Biden does not hesitate to invoke his Catholic faith routinely. Biden cited St. Augustine in his inaugural address, and regularly cites Pope Francesco himself, but that does not preclude sharp contradictions about their positions on the issue of abortion, issues related to LGBTQ rights, and on issues of war and sales weapons.
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