ROME — Pope Francis granted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken a 40-minute private audience Monday in which the pontiff expressed his “affection” for the American people.
According to Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, the meeting “offered the Pope the occasion to recall his apostolic visit to the United States in 2015 and to express his affection for the people of America,” Vatican News reported.
The pope’s private talk with Blinken in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace followed a separate meeting between the Blinken, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.
Blinken is currently on a diplomatic tour of European States, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State under the Biden administration, following closely on Biden’s trip abroad for the G7 meeting in Cornwall, England.
“The meeting was extremely warm and very wide ranging,” Blinken told reporters after the meeting.
“Just speaking for myself and speaking for the United States, I was very gratified by the meeting and gratified as well by the strong leadership of His Holiness on the pandemic, on climate change, on the challenge that we have to address when it comes to irregular migration and refugees,” he said.
The visit comes at an uneasy moment for Biden, who has come under fire from numerous U.S. bishops for his unapologetic support for abortion-on-demand, which the Catholic Church considers murder.
On June 18, the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly to approve drafting a document on the worthy reception of Holy Communion, an issue with obvious repercussions for President Joe Biden, a professed Catholic.
The pope himself has expressed support for the denial of Holy Communion to politicians who flout the Church’s teaching on abortion.
In one of his first acts after being elected, Francis wrote to the Bishops of Argentina instructing them to govern the Church there following the Aparecida document, a 2007 text from the Latin American bishops urging “Eucharistic coherence.”
“We should hold ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments,” the text declared, “in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated.”
“This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals,” clarified the document, whose drafting committee Francis led while he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“We hope that legislators, leaders and health professionals, aware of the dignity of human life and the roots of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; this is their responsibility,” the document stated.
After his Rome visit, Blinken will fly to southern Italy for Tuesday’s G20 meeting of foreign ministers for discussions on climate change, health issues, and development.