Miguel Díaz can’t help but feel a little frustration. ” I would have liked to participate in the meeting between the first Hispanic Pope and the second Catholic President of the United States », Confides with a smile the diplomat of Cuban origin, American ambassador to the Holy See under Barack Obama.
→ CONTEXT. Joe Biden will be received by Pope Francis on October 29
He alludes to the highly anticipated meeting between Joe Biden and Pope Francis on Friday, October 29, at the Vatican. This meeting, the first since Joe Biden was elected to the White House, will allow the United States and the Holy See to turn the Trump page, peppered with disputes on the issue of migration and the environment in particular.
A personal bond between Joe Biden and Pope Francis
Joe Biden has enjoyed good relations with the popes he has met during his career. As senator and vice-president, he had long conversations with John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, the bond he maintains with François is more personal. Catholics of the same generation who came to power relatively late in their lives, the two men have a lot in common. In 2015, François supported the Biden family after Beau, the Democrat’s son, died from cancer. The following year, the vice-president visited the Vatican to call for international mobilization against the disease.” Joe Biden is a famous figure in Rome. And the Pope came to the United States in 2015 when he was vice president ”, continues the former ambassador.
On the political level, the subjects of convergence are numerous. On issues traditionally at the heart of the bilateral relationship – fight against poverty, promotion of human rights, defense of religious freedoms and peace – the two men share similar points of view. The climate is another major source of convergence, Joe Biden having returned to the Paris agreement in particular. They also harbor the same concern about the future of democracy and “ can stand together against nationalist tendencies that undermine the common good and global stability ”, says Miguel Díaz.
Bones of contention
In addition, the White House could use the influence of the Pope, instrumental in the warming of relations between the United States and Cuba in 2014, and the Holy See’s diplomatic ties with 183 countries, to defuse international tensions.
The bones of discord nevertheless exist. Starting with the issue of abortion, the Democrat saying he is pro choice. A position that causes a stir within the American Bishops’ Conference, divided on the right of the president to receive communion.
→ READ. Will Joe Biden still be able to receive Communion?
Another point of divergence, Washington takes a dim view of the historic agreement between the Vatican and China, which gives the Pope the last word on the appointment of bishops in the communist country. Francis renewed it in 2020 despite objections from the State Department. ” The Vatican sees this issue from the perspective of Chinese Catholics. The United States is looking at the geopolitical consequences. There will be disagreements, but it is possible to find common ground, on the common defense of human rights for example ”, puts Miguel Díaz into perspective.
The seat of U.S. Ambassador to the vacant Holy See
Immigration can be another delicate subject. The Biden government must show that it is able to welcome in a humane and dignified way the growing number of migrants arriving at the southern border. In September, he was criticized for the evacuation of a camp of Haitian immigrants in Texas, chased by agents on horseback equipped with whips.
Note that Joe Biden’s visit comes when the United States has not yet filled the post of Ambassador to the Holy See. Joe Donnelly, a former senator from Indiana, is tipped, but has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
“The bishops will not be able to close their eyes to the reception reserved for Biden at the Vatican”
Shaun Casey, professor at Georgetown University and first director of the Office of Religious and International Affairs at the United States Department of State
“The Pope and Joe Biden share priorities on tackling climate change and global poverty, responding to the growing problem of refugees and right-wing nationalism. They are also criticized by bishops and republicans in the United States. They could trade war stories! The bishops, who will meet for their Plenary Assembly in Baltimore in November, will not be able to condone the warm welcome extended to Biden at the Vatican. It will become more difficult for them to behave negatively towards him ”.