Pope Francis spoke out in support of the American people during a lengthy meeting Monday with U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken.
When Blinken was later asked if they had discussed U.S. bishops’ campaign to deny Holy Communion Roman Catholic politicians such as the U.S. president, who support abortion rights, Blinken said no.
According to the Vatican, the two spoke for approximately 40 minutes. This is a lot considering that Blinken doesn’t hold the highest U.S. government leadership position.
Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesperson, stated that the closed-door meeting at the Apostolic Palace was “conducted in a cordial atmosphere”. The meeting was “for the pope an occasion to recall his 2015 trip and to express his affections and his attention towards the people of America.”
Bruni was referring specifically to the pontiff’s U.S. Pilgrimage, which included a meeting at The White House with President Barack Obama. The U.S. church hierarchy is becoming more divided about U.S. politics in recent years.
Many conservative U.S. bishops are requesting a clear directive from their ranks to stop giving Communion U.S. political leaders who are Roman Catholics and support abortion. The Vatican considers abortion a grave sin. This campaign is a slap on President Joe Biden. A Catholic, Biden has stated that he supports abortion rights, even though he opposes it personally.
The U.S. churchmen made a decision earlier this month to create a document on Communion. A month ago, Francis’ top official in doctrinal Orthody had asked the bishops for thorough thought and to try to minimize divisions.
When asked by a reporter in Rome following his Vatican visit, Blinken refused to discuss the topic.
“One of the luxuries in my job is that i don’t do domestic political,” said Blinken. He described his talks with Pope Francis as “extremely warm” and “very wide-ranging.”
Francis has not publicly commented on the latest controversy in the long-running dispute over Communion within the U.S. Conference of Bishops.
Blinken was highly praised by Francis and had the opportunity to sit down with him as the highest ranking official in the fledgling Biden government.
Blinken stated that “I was very pleased by the meeting” and “the strong leadership of His Holiness regarding the pandemic, climate change”, as well as “the challenge that must be addressed on irregular migration, refugees”
According to the U.S. official, he said, speaking in a more general sense, “maybe the most important of all,… his leadership on fundamental proposition that we must stand for human dignity and do everything we can to the best of their ability.”
Ned Price, Blinken’s spokesperson, stated that the secretary had assured Pope Francis about the United States’ willingness to work closely with the Holy See in order to address global problems and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and least fortunate, including refugees, migrants, and other international issues.
This would be in line with Francis’ overall goal of placing those who live on the margins of life at the center of his attention.
Blinken also expressed gratitude to Francis for his “longstanding leadership” in addressing climate change. Francis published an encyclical (or formal teaching document) early in his pontificate, stressing the importance of protecting and treasure the environment.
When Mike Pompeo, Blinken’s predecessor, visited the Vatican last year, he was not allowed to spend any time alone with Francis. Officials from the Vatican explained at the time that the Holy See did not want to create the impression of favoritism just weeks before the U.S. presidential elections.
Pompeo had criticised the Vatican for signing an agreement with Beijing regarding the Chinese nominations of bishops. Pompeo demanded that the Holy See stand firmer against Chinese restrictions to religious freedom.
Biden has, for his part criticized China’s forced labor practices. According to Blinken’s spokesperson, China was one of the topics discussed by Francis and the U.S. Secretary.
In separate talks between Blinken and the No. 2 of the Holy See, human rights and religious freedom were also addressed. 2, Cardinal Pietro Parolin (the Vatican’s secretary-of-state) and Archbishop Paul Gallagher (its foreign minister).
Price stated that Blinken emphasized the U.S. support of Venezuela’s return to democracy and expressed “our desire” to assist Venezuelans rebuild their country.
Blinken also received a private, guided tour of the Sistine Chapel with its ceiling frescoed in Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpieces.
Before his scheduled flight to Italy on Tuesday evening, he met with Italian officials. The meeting, called the Group of 20 Meeting of Foreign Ministers, focuses on improving cooperation among countries on issues such as climate change, development, and health.