President Joe Biden will undertake a three-stop trip to Europe starting in late October that will include a Vatican meeting with Pope Francis, the White House said Thursday.
President and First Lady Jill Biden plans to visit Rome for the G-20 summit on October 30 and 31. While there, Biden will also hold bilateral meetings with other world leaders, which the White House has said will be communicated in the run-up to the event.
Ahead of the G-20 summit, Biden, the second Catholic president in US history, will travel to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis. The conference will cover “working together on efforts based on respect for basic human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis and caring for the poor,” according to the White House .
Francois has publicly adopted Covid-19 vaccinations at a time when some religious conservatives have raised moral qualms with vaccines – primarily due to distant links to cells derived from abortions during the developmental process. Earlier this week, the Archbishop of the United States Army said the Catholic military could refuse compulsory vaccination for religious reasons, highlighting the current split within the church.
At the same time, the pope’s meeting with Biden, a staunch practitioner, comes amid an ongoing debate among Catholic leaders in the United States over whether to reprimand the president and other Catholic politicians for their support for the right to abortion by denying them Communion. Last month François refused to look directly into the matter, but said politics should be kept separate from church practices and urged priests and ministers to “be pastors and not to condemn.”
Following the trip to Italy, Biden will travel to the UK to attend the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – outnumbered until COP26 – in Glasgow from November 1-2.
This will be Biden’s second big trip to Europe as president. During the summer he traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to attend G-7 and NATO meetings and a US-EU summit.