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President Biden to meet Pope Francis amid pressure from anti-abortion U.S. bishops



President Joe Biden, who belongs to the Roman Catholic church, will meet Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday after pressure from anti-abortion bishops in the Church over his support for abortion.

Biden has said he is personally opposed to abortion but cannot impose his views as an elected leader. But Catholic media and U.S. bishops have criticised him for that stand, with some saying the Democratic president should be banned from receiving communion, the central sacrament of the faith. It is not known if Biden and Pope Francis will discuss the abortion and communion disputes at their private meeting on Friday, their first since Biden took office.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the two men would discuss climate change, migration and income inequality. “It’s clear that the pope does not agree with the president about abortion. He’s made that exceptionally clear,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told Catholic News Service.

Asked about the U.S. communion debate last month, the pope told reporters that abortion is “murder”. But he also appeared to criticise U.S. Catholic bishops for dealing with the issue in a political rather than a pastoral way. “Communion is not a prize for the perfect. … Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” the pope said. Bishops should use “compassion and tenderness” with Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, he said.

Since his election in 2013 as the first Latin American pope, Francis has said that while the Church should oppose abortion, the issue should not become an all-consuming battle in culture wars that detract attention from matters such as immigration and poverty.

In June, a divided conference of U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on communion that some bishops say should specifically admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden. read more The bishops will take up the issue again next month. While Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, has not tried to stop Biden from receiving communion, the archbishop in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home city of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, has told his priests not to give it to her [Reuters].

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