White House press secretary Jen Psaki said first lady Jill Biden will also meet with the pope.
“They will discuss working together on efforts grounded in respect for fundamental human dignity, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor,” Psaki said.
The president, a devout Catholic, has been scrutinized for his support of abortion policies. Over the summer, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted overwhelmingly to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist after a contentious debate on whether Biden and other politicians supportive of abortion policies are worthy of receiving Communion. The vote tally announced Friday was 168 bishops in favor, 55 opposed, and six bishops abstaining.
Biden, who attends Mass regularly, says he personally opposes abortion but doesn’t think he should impose that position on Americans who feel otherwise. He’s taken several executive actions during his presidency that were hailed by pro-choice advocates.
At least two-thirds of the bishops would have to vote to adopt the new language at their next gathering slated for November. The decision on whether Biden should be allowed to receive Communion would still be left up to individual bishops, as is standard for all churchgoers, but a new document would inform those decisions.
Over the summer, the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., where the Bidens attend Mass when he is in the nation’s capital, said the church “will not deny the Eucharist to persons presenting themselves to receive it.”
“As Pope Francis recently reaffirmed, communion should be viewed ‘not as a prize for the perfect, but as a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,'” the church quoted the pope as saying. “None of us, whether we stand in the pews or behind the altar, is worthy to receive it. The great gift of the Holy Eucharist is too sacred to be made a political issue.”
The visit to the Vatican will come before the president participates in the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Oct. 30 and 31 in Rome. The White House said additional details about “individual bilateral engagements on the margins of G20 will be forthcoming.”
After the summit in Rome, Biden will travel to Glasgow, United Kingdom to participate in the World Leader Summit on Nov. 1 and 2, at the start of the 26th Conference of the Parties tot he UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.