President Joe Biden was blessed with Communion at St. Patrick’s Church on Saturday Vigil Mass. This came a day after Pope Francis said that he should continue to receive the Sacrament despite opposition from some conservatives in America upset by his position on abortion.
Biden visited Jill, his wife, and the English-speaking church, which is the main place for worship for the American Catholic Community in Rome. It is located close to the U.S Embassy. Between events at the Group of 20 global leaders’ summit in the city, the president stopped by.
Biden receives Communion regularly in Washington and Delaware. However, it was important that he also received Communion at Rome. Technically, the pope is the bishop in Rome. While he delegated day-to-day administration and management to his vicars, St. Patrick’s parish technically falls under the pope’s archdiocese. Biden was thus able to receive Communion in the archdiocese of the pope.
Around 30 people attended Mass. Security guards patrolled the aisles. Just after Mass began, the Bidens entered quietly from the last row of rows that had been “Reserved”.
The Rev. Joe Ciccone was the vice rector at St. Patrick’s. He is also a member the Paulist order. The Rev. Steven Petroff and a third priest were also present. The service was attended by the Associated Press.
Ciccone said that his homily was a meditation about love that he had written days before the Bidens were there. He stated that it was an honor to host them in the parish and that Biden’s position on abortion or whether to administer Communion was no issue for him and the parish.
“Communion is what brings people together in the Lord. We are all imperfect and flawed. Every day is a struggle. After the service, Ciccone said that all people are sinners and saints.
He said, “And when your public figure is a person you must make certain decisions, especially within a democracy on behalf of more that just your personal feelings.”
Petroff made no announcement at Mass about the Bidens’ presence, but he did note that they were present at the end of Mass. He received them and thanked them for their presence. He also offered prayers to “for the important work” that they do. There was a round of applause in the pews.
Both Bidens wore masks during the service, and they hugged during the sign of Peace. When an usher approached his pew, the president placed American money in the collection basket.
The priests and the Bidens then left with the final hymn: “Let there is peace on Earth, let it start with me.”
Many U.S. bishops have opposed the president’s support of abortion rights, while others suggested that he should be denied Communion. American bishops will hold their annual fall conference in mid November and will be debating the possibility of a rebuke from a U.S president.
Many conservative U.S. bishops were dismayed at the pope’s words to Biden. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, shared a vehement blog post by Cardinal Raymond Burke, which strongly stated that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights will not be able to receive the sacrament.
Strickland wrote, “Let’s pray for the repentance all who support murder of the unborn.”
Petroff, who was the parish rector that gave Biden the Eucharist said he had never denied it to anyone.
He told AP that he didn’t know the inner workings of anyone when they receive the Eucharist. “And second, I’m not the Eucharist police. Pope Francis and other popes said that the Eucharist is medicine for those who are in need.
Biden said to reporters that abortion was not discussed in the Vatican’s 75-minute meeting. Biden stated, “We just discussed the fact that he was happy to see me as a Catholic and should continue receiving Communion.”
A Vatican spokesperson declined to comment on Biden’s comments about Communion. He noted that the Vatican does not comment on the pope’s private conversations outside of what is published in the official communique.
After the Vatican meeting, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement that did not address Biden’s comment about Communion. The statement stated that Biden’s comment about Communion would not be addressed in any document that emerges from the bishops meeting next month.
According to the statement, the document was intended to “reflect on the beauty of meeting Jesus Christ at the Eucharist” and was addressed to all Catholics.
Francis stressed that he would not turn down political leaders who support abortion rights. However, Catholic policy allows bishops to decide whether or not to prohibit people from receiving Communion. Francis was asked recently if he would deny the sacrament of Communion to Biden. However, he did not respond with a “yes” or a “no” answer. He said that bishops should be pastors and not politicians.