Devout Roman Catholic President Biden swept into the Vatican early Friday for his first meeting with Pope Francis since taking office — which the Vatican abruptly announced Thursday will not be televised or have press access.
Biden — only the second Catholic US President — was filmed arriving by motorcade and being saluted in welcome as he arrived with his wife, Jill.
Despite the White House claiming it would seek press access, the Vatican abruptly decided yesterday it wouldn’t even broadcast opening niceties as the papal press office routinely does for visiting world leaders.
The presidential motorcade was met by a line of dignitaries as it pulled into the San Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, with the US flag flying from the central balcony and an honor salute from Swiss Guards in their traditional red, yellow and blue uniforms.
Biden, 78 — who visited the Vatican before being elected president, and keeps a photo of the pope behind his desk in the Oval Office — was heard repeatedly greeting people by saying, “It’s good to be back!”
“I’m Jill’s husband,” he said at one point, gaining a chuckle from the first lady.
The head of the Pontifical Household, Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, led them to the third floor of the palace, where formally attired ushers known as the “pope’s gentlemen” waited to escort them down frescoed halls to the official papal library.
When announcing the meeting, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said they “will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.”
The meeting takes place amid fierce debate in the United States Church, where Biden is under pressure from conservatives over his conflicted position in the dispute over abortion rights.
The president, who goes to weekly Mass regularly, has said he is personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose his views as an elected leader.
It also comes amid intense pressure over his Build Back Better agenda currently stalled in Congress.
With Post wires