.- On Monday at noon in Rome, the Vaticanâs Press Office confirmed to CNA that Pope Benedict will be receiving U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in an audience at noon on Wednesday.
Pelosi, a self-proclaimed "ardent Catholic" who has sparked significant criticism from fellow Catholics in the U.S. for her pro-abortion views, arrived in Italy on Sunday for an eight-day official visit.
After landing at the USAF base in Aviano, she and the American delegation met with the mayor Florence, Leonardo Domenici at the "Palazzo Vecchio" (The Old Palace.)
On Monday, Pelosi began a series of meetings with Italian political authorities at the Quirinale Palace, where she was received by the President of the Italian State, Giorgio Napolitano. She then moved to the nearby Italian Congress for a meeting with the President of the Government, Gianfranco Fini.
Later in the evening, a reception honoring the U.S. delegation will take place at the Library of Montecitorio Palace where Pelosi will deliver the address: "Strong Allies for a Secure Future."
On Tuesday, the Speaker of the House will be received by the President of the Council of Ministers, Silvio Berlusconi, at Villa Madama. In the afternoon Pelosi will hold meetings with the Minister of Defense, Ignazio La Russa and the Minister of International Affairs, Franco Frattini.
Although numerous reports have been published either confirming or denying that Pope Benedict would receive Pelosi in an audience, the Holy Seeâs Press Office confirmed to CNA on Monday at noon Rome time, that the Holy Father will receive the U.S. representative on Wednesday at midday.
The press office made clear that the Pope will meet with Pelosi in his capacity as a head of state since the Speaker of the House is the third in line to lead the U.S., should the president and vice president be unable to do so.
The idea of providing Pelosi with a photo-op has disturbed a significant number of U.S. Catholics and pro-life activists.
In August 2008, Pelosi attempted to offer a justification for why Catholics could support abortion and remain in good standing with the Church by giving a convoluted explanation based on misquotes of Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on "Meet the Press."
Pelosi's pretention at reinterpreting Catholic moral and theological teaching elicited strong criticism from more than 20 U.S. cardinals, archbishops and bishops.
More recently, Nancy Pelosi was strongly criticized for defending the insertion of millions in spending on contraceptives into the stimulus bill. Pelosi, who says she is an "ardent Catholic," told ABC's This Week that the money spent on family planning services would "reduce costs."
Over this past weekend pro-life activists and bloggers launched verbal salvos against the Vatican because they believe that the Holy See plans to present Nancy Pelosi with an award.
This is definitely not true, the Vaticanâs press office told CNA. The idea that Pelosi would be awarded by the Vatican most likely is the result of activists confusing the visit to the Vatican with the Speaker of the House being awarded by a group of Italian legislators for being the first Italian American to reach such a high rank in the U.S. government.