Pope Francis urges Biden to 'respect rights, dignity of every person'

Former Vice President Joe Biden meeting with Pope Francis in a photo that was part of a Biden presidential campaign ad uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 28, 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden meeting with Pope Francis in a photo that was part of a Biden presidential campaign ad uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 28, 2020. | YouTube/Joe Biden

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Pope Francis urged the new commander-in-chief to "respect the rights and dignity of every person," including "those who have no voice."

According to the Vatican, the pontiff opened his letter to Biden, who was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States Wednesday, by saying: "On the occasion of your inauguration as the forty-sixth president of the United States of America, I extend cordial grand wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office." 

Biden is the second Catholic to serve as President of the United States. While Biden has spoken openly about his faith and made it a campaign issue, he has come under criticism from Catholic leaders over his support for abortion, which Catholic doctrine teaches is a grave evil. In one case, a Catholic priest in South Carolina refused to give then-candidate Biden communion, citing his abortion advocacy.

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On the campaign trail, Biden vowed to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, into federal law. The president also promised to rescind the Mexico City Policy, which prevents the use of taxpayer dollars to fund overseas programs that promote or perform abortions and reverse a Trump administration rule that prevented facilities that received federal family planning funds from promoting or performing abortions.

Biden's embrace of the aforementioned policies led the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List to describe the Biden-Harris ticket as the "most pro-abortion presidential ticket in American history."

After winning the election, Biden announced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an outspoken abortion advocate, as his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain once referred to himself as a "soldier" in the pro-abortion group NARAL's "army." 

Pope Francis did not bring up the topic of abortion directly in his letter but he did pray that Biden's "decisions would be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice." 

Additionally, Francis expressed hope that "under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding."

"I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the common good. With these sentiments, I willingly invoke upon you and your family and the beloved American people an abundance of blessings."

Following the media's projection that Biden was the winner of the 2020 presidential election, Francis called to congratulate the Democrat leader for his election victory.

Speaking about the meeting, the Biden-Harris transition team sent out a press release maintaining that "the President-elect thanked His Holiness for extending his blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness' leadership, in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world." 

According to the campaign, Biden "expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities."

On his first day in office, Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and ordered the continuing and strengthening of the DACA program, enabling immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country.  

While Biden met with the pope during his tenure as vice president, he is likely to meet again with the bishop of Rome in his new capacity as president. Francis, who has served as pope of the Roman Catholic Church since 2013, met with both of Biden's predecessors during their tenures in office.

He met with former President Donald Trump in May 2017 and met with former President Barack Obama, who Biden served under as vice president, on two occasions. The first meeting between Obama and Francis took place in 2014, when the president was on an overseas trip, and the second meeting took place in the U.S., when the pontiff visited Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities.

During his visit to the U.S., Francis visited the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns fighting the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, which forced employers to cover employees' birth control in employer-sponsored healthcare plans. The Trump administration rescinded the Obamacare contraceptive mandate but Biden has pledged to reinstate it. 

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