Blinken and pope hold talks at Vatican in wake of bishops’ ruling


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Monday held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who was visiting the Vatican in the wake of a decision by American Catholic bishops that could lead to them denying Communion to President Joe Biden.

Blinken is the highest-ranking Biden administration official the pontiff has met since the inauguration in January.

He held private talks with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace after having a separate meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.

There was no immediate word on the details of the talks but Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the atmosphere was cordial.

The visit follows a conference at which U.S. Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden, who support a woman’s right to abortion despite opposing the practice personally..

The bishops decided to move forward with the document, mostly disregarding a Vatican warning that it would be highly divisive.

Bruni said the meeting “was an occasion for the pope to reminisce about his 2015 trip (to the United States) and to express his affection for and attention to, the people of the United States of America.”

The Vatican and the Biden administration agree on the dangers of climate change, which was a main point of contention with the White House while Donald Trump was president.

Trump was dismissive of the problem as he dismantled climate policies and regulations on fossil fuels.

The pope criticised Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris accord to limit global warming. The Vatican welcomed Biden’s return to the accord.

Francis, who in May received Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry has urged nations to work together to save the planet.

(Humeyra Pamuk reporting from Rome; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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