A motorcade of 85 vehicles escorted President Joseph Biden and First Lady Jill Biden to the Vatican on Friday morning for a private meeting with Pope Francis a day before the G20 summit of world leaders in Rome.
It was the first time Joe Biden met the Pope as President of the United States. The President was accompanied by a group of advisors and White House officials, whom he introduced to the Pope one by one.
-'My national security advisor, Jake Sullivan.'
Biden is the second Catholic U.S. president in history, and he fittingly chose a rather “Catholic” gift for the Pope. It was this handwoven fiddleback chasuble from the archival collection of the Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C. The vestment was commissioned in 1930 and used by the Jesuits in the United States.
-'I hope you find this gift from the United States appropriate.'
The Pope, in turn, gave the President a one-of-a-kind ceramic depicting a pilgrim in Rome with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.
He also gave him a collection of his pontifical texts.
But President Biden couldn’t leave without sneaking in one last gift for Pope Francis.
-'I’m not sure this is appropriate, but there’s a tradition in America that the President has what is called the ‘command coin,’ that he gives to warriors and leaders. And you are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met. With your permission, I’d like to be able to give you a coin.'
The coin carries special meaning for the President because one side shows the state of Delaware, and, as he explained to the Pope, his son Beau, had served in the Delaware Army National Guard’s 261st brigade, before he died of cancer when he was 49 years old.
Now the tradition is this, and I’m only kidding about this. If next time I see you, you don’t have it, you have to buy the drinks.
Though the entire meeting was colored by several moments of light-hearted jokes, the leaders discussed serious matters like climate change, migration and the protection of human rights, according to a Vatican statement.
After his meeting with the Pope, President Biden met with other Vatican officials, including Secretary of State, Card. Pietro Parolin, and the Secretary for Relations with States, Abp. Paul Richard Gallagher.
In a communiqué, the White House reported that the parties “discussed efforts to rally global support for vaccinating the developing world against COVID-19,” and that the President “thanked the Vatican for speaking out on behalf of the wrongfully detained, including in Venezuela and Cuba.” According to Biden, they did not discuss abortion, and the Pope told him he was happy that he is a “good Catholic” and that he should continue to receive communion.