Biden's upcoming meeting with Pope Francis comes amid rift with U.S. bishops

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President Biden is slated to meet with Pope Francis for his first time as president on Oct. 29, just weeks before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will convene in part to draft a document guiding bishops regarding whether politicians who support abortion should be barred from Communion.

The USCCB over the summer voted overwhelmingly to draft a formal document on the meaning of the Eucharist after a contentious debate on whether Roman Catholic politicians who support policies that oppose church teaching should receive the sacrament. The vote tally announced was 168 bishops in favor, 55 opposed, and six bishops abstaining.

Any document that the bishops adopt when they convene in Baltimore next month is unlikely to mention Biden or any other politician by name.

SELMA, AL – MARCH 01: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a worship event at the Brown Chapel AME Church on March 1, 2020 in Selma, Alabama. Biden is campaigning before voting starts on Super Tuesday, March 3. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Bidens usually attend Mass at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church when they are in Washington, D.C., which said they “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, quoting the pope. “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.”

Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University, told the Associated Press that the rift between bishops and the president is “way beyond embarrassing.”

Faggioli claimed that some of the bishops are using the Eucharist as “an act of intimidation” against Biden. “And they have a pope who is protecting a Catholic president’s access to the sacraments — he’s had to send a signal from the Vatican saying, ‘We don’t think this is wise.'”

(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Chad Pecknold, who is a professor of theology at The Catholic University of America, told the AP he does not expect the pope to confront Biden over his abortion views, but noted how many Catholics would want that to take place.

“I think the Catholic faithful have a right to hope for this, and to express their concern for the soul of Mr. Biden,” Pecknold said.

Pecknold also said the meeting “could actually highlight the urgent need to unite around a clear and coherent view of how the bishops should respond to politicians who publicly hold the Church’s teaching in contempt while presenting themselves for Holy Communion.”

TOPSHOT – Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the president’s papal meeting last week, saying, “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.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also recently met with Pope Francis. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has repeatedly spoken out in opposition to Catholic politicians supporting abortion, and urged prayer for Pelosi.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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