U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met with Pope Benedict XVI in an unannounced visit to the Vatican, June 3. Both sides have been tight-lipped as to what was discussed.
“I have no comment. It was a totally private meeting and there will no communiqué,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., told CNA on June 3.
In fact the meeting wasn’t even listed on the Pope’s daily public schedule. One of the few give-aways was the heavy security surrounding the Port Sant’ Anna entrance to the Vatican all morning. Journalists covering the Pope’s meeting with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas also spotted Biden’s car at the Vatican.
Vice President Biden is in Rome to mark the 150th anniversary of the country’s unification. Although he is a Catholic, Biden has had a troubled relationship with the Church because of his stance on certain issues, such as abortion.
In fact, after gaining the vice presidential nomination in 2008 he was criticized by his own bishop, the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, for his stance on abortion. Biden was subsequently barred from speaking at events in Catholic schools in the diocese.
Biden has repeatedly stated at the he believes life begins at conception but that he would not want to impose his personal beliefs on others. This was countered by Bishop Saltarelli in 2004 when he replied;
“No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: ‘I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.’ Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: ‘I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.’”
Biden isn’t the first senior Democrat who supports legalized abortion and is Catholic to meet Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2009 then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also visited the Pope at the Vatican. Afterwards she claimed, “I had the opportunity to praise the Church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.”
This version of events, though, was somewhat contradicted by a Vatican statement issued only hours later:
“His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church's consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in co-operation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.”
Vice President Biden also had meeting in Rome today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the issue of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the Pope also held separate discussions on the same issue with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.