Biden Meets With Pope Francis at G7 Summit in Italy

Biden Meets With Pope Francis at G7 Summit in Italy
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) meets with Pope Francis on the second day of the G7 summit at the Borgo Egnazia resort, in Savelletri, Puglia, Italy, on June 14, 2024. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

PUGLIA, Italy—President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis privately on June 14 on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit in southern Italy.

“The leaders emphasized the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire and a hostage deal to get the hostages home and address the critical humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” the White House said after the meeting.

The president thanked Pope Francis during their meeting for the Vatican’s efforts to address the humanitarian impacts of the war in Ukraine, notably his efforts to help return kidnapped Ukrainian children to their homes, the White House said.

“President Biden also reaffirmed his deep appreciation for the Pope’s tireless advocacy for the poor and those suffering from persecution, the effects of climate change, and conflict around the world.”

President Biden and Pope Francis last met in October 2021 at the Vatican, where the president offered the pope a “command coin” and praised him as “the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”

President Biden is the second Catholic U.S. president, after President John F. Kennedy.

In February 2021, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president had an excellent relationship with the pope. She said there is a picture in the Oval Office “that is a reflection of that.”

It has become increasingly common for U.S. presidents to meet and shake hands with popes since 1959, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower met with Pope John XXIII at the Vatican, said John Gizzi, a political columnist at Newsmax who has written on Catholics and the Vatican, to The Epoch Times.

Given the election year, a meeting with the pope may be especially important for President Biden to increase his support among Catholic voters.

In 2020, the AP VoteCast survey estimated that 49 percent of Catholics nationwide supported Joe Biden in the 2020 election, while 50 percent backed then-President Donald Trump.

In recent polls, however, a majority of Catholics have preferred former President Trump to President Biden. According to a Pew Research study released in April, 55 percent of Catholics said they would vote for the former president, while 43 percent support President Biden. The gap is greater among white, non-Hispanic voters.

However, among Hispanic voters, the picture is quite different. They prefer President Biden over former President Trump by 49 to 47 percent.

Voting Trends

Ernesto Castaneda, a sociology professor and director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, said he believes that the majority of Latino voters will cast their ballots for Democrats in the upcoming election, but at a lesser rate than in prior elections.

“Like white voters, Latinos are a diverse population and vote differently depending on their education, profession, gender, and place of residence,” he told The Epoch Times.

However, President Biden’s meeting with the pope is significant and may remind voters that he has always been a Catholic, he noted.

“When there are so many pressing humanitarian world issues, this meeting between President Biden and the pope is important,” Mr. Castaneda said.

The pope attended the G7 summit to deliver a speech on AI during a special session. This was the first time in Vatican history that a pope participated in a G7 meeting.

Developing and using AI ethically has been a key priority for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has hosted this year’s summit in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

She has voiced concerns about the impact of this technology on the labor market and claimed that it could eliminate the need for people, widening the income gap around the world if not governed properly.

The Vatican launched an initiative called “Rome Call for AI Ethics” several years ago. The initiative has drawn support from some well-known companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco.

During the AI session at the summit, President Biden said that the world would see more technological change in the next five years than in the last 50 years, according to a senior administration official who briefed the reporters following the AI meeting.

President Biden urged the G7 leaders to deepen cooperation to manage the potential perils of this new technology.