© Reuters. Pope Francis welcomes the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, at their meeting at the Vatican on October 9, 2021. Vatican Media / Handout via REUTERS
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis met on Saturday with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic who has been criticized by some US bishops for her support for abortion rights.
Their meeting took place several weeks before Joe Biden is expected to meet with the Pope while the President of the United States is in Rome to speak among the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies.
Biden, the second Catholic president of the United States, has said that he is personally opposed to abortion but, as a politician, cannot impose his views. Pelosi, who has five children, has said she supports a woman’s right to choose.
The Biden and Pelosi administration have urged judges to block a new Texas law banning six-week abortions, saying it is unconstitutional. The ban was temporarily reinstated on Friday by a conservative appeals court.
The Catholic Church teaches that human life begins at the moment of conception and Biden and Pelosi have been criticized by conservative Catholic media and conservative US bishops, some of whom say neither should be allowed. receive communion.
Last month, the pope, who was asked about the communion debate in the United States, told reporters that abortion is “murder,” even shortly after conception, but appeared to criticize the American Catholic bishops. for approaching the issue in a political rather than pastoral way.
“Communion is not a prize for the perfect … Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church,” the Pope said.
In June, a divided conference of U.S. Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on communion that some bishops say should specifically admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden. They return to the subject again next month.
The Vatican announced Pelosi’s audience with the Pope in its daily bulletin, but did not give details.
After Pelosi met former Pope Benedict in 2009, the Vatican said it had told him that lawmakers and other public figures should help create “a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its life. developing”.
The Archbishop of San Francisco, Pelosi’s hometown, Salvatore Cordileone, has said public figures who support abortion should be denied communion in his archdiocese and has urged Catholics to pray for the “conversion of the heart.” by Pelosi.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, DC, has not tried to stop Biden, a regular church goer, from receiving communion.
Biden’s meeting with the Pope will be his first since his election, although they have met several times before, including when he was Barack Obama’s vice president.
Pelosi is in Rome for a Parliamentary Speakers Summit before the G20, as well as a meeting of parliamentary leaders before the UN Climate Change Summit (COP20) next month in Glasgow.
Francis told MPs separately on Saturday that they had a decisive role to play in protecting the environment.
The Vatican announced on Friday that the pope would not go to Glasgow, but that his delegation would be led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state.