Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis at G7 Summit to discuss foreign policy, climate change

Pope Francis Joe Biden Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. | Credit: Vatican Media

President Joe Biden privately met with Pope Francis early Friday evening in Apulia, Italy, at the Group of Seven (G7) Summit to discuss foreign policy and climate change.

Francis is the first pope to address the G7 summit, which is an annual meeting of government leaders from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy. The European Union also participates but is not an official member.

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media

In a statement following the meeting, the White House said both leaders “emphasized the urgent need for an immediate cease-fire and a hostage deal” in Gaza and the need to “address the critical humanitarian crisis.”

The statement added that “Biden thanked Pope Francis for the Vatican’s work to address the humanitarian impacts of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, including his efforts to help return kidnapped Ukrainian children to their families.”

“President Biden also reaffirmed his deep appreciation for the pope’s tireless advocacy for the poor and those suffering from persecution, the effects of climate change, and conflict around the world,” according to the statement.

In the morning, prior to the meeting, a senior Biden administration official said during a press teleconference that Biden planned to discuss issues in the Middle East and Ukraine with the pontiff. On Ukraine, the official said “the Holy See has been actively engaged” on this issue. 

“Cardinal [Matteo] Zuppi, in particular, has been an envoy working to return Ukrainian children who have been forcibly deported across the border, separated from their families,” the official added. “Of course, it’s one of the huge tragedies of this war. And the Holy See has also been engaged in trying to promote a peace agreement.”

The official said Biden would also discuss climate change, “which is an issue that is near and dear to both leaders.”

“Of course, the president’s plan for adaptation and resilience, which was launched in November of 2021, is an important effort to deal with climate change, as is the multilateral Loss and Damage Fund to which the United States has contributed $17.5 million, an important effort to mitigate some of the effects of climate change,” the official said.

Before the scheduled meeting, Biden and other leaders briefly greeted Francis when he arrived at the summit to address officials about concerns related to artificial intelligence (AI). The pontiff, who has called for global regulations on AI, expressed apprehensions about AI becoming a tool for war and cautioned against relying too much on AI without human input during his address. Francis has promoted global regulations to ensure AI is used to advance the common good.

The senior administration official said during the teleconference that Biden would also likely discuss AI with Francis — an issue that has been important to the pontiff over the past year. 

“I’ll just say on AI, I think we are both interested in responsible use of artificial intelligence, preserving human dignity and human rights,” the official said. “And so they’ll have a chance to get into that.”

The White House statement following the meeting, however, did not mention AI. 

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday, June 14, 2024, after a session at the G7 summit, which is being held June 13–15 in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Credit: Vatican Media

Biden previously met with Francis in October 2021 for about 75 minutes to discuss poverty, climate change, and other issues. That was Biden’s first in-person meeting with the pontiff as president, but the two leaders also spoke on the phone shortly after the presidential election. Biden and Francis also spoke on the phone in October 2023 to discuss the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Biden had met Francis three times before becoming president.

The president claimed in 2021 after the two met in person that Francis told him he “was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving Communion.” The Vatican declined to comment on whether Francis made those comments. However, in July 2022, Francis criticized Biden for the president’s support of abortion, saying that it is an “incoherence” for a Catholic to be in favor of legal abortion.

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been at odds with the Biden administration over issues related to abortion and gender ideology. The bishops also criticized the president’s recent border security measures.

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