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Biden, a lifelong Catholic, receives congratulatory call from the pope

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress in 2015, with then-Vice President Joe Biden behind him.
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington in September 2015, with then-Vice President Joe Biden in the background at left.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

It’s not exactly divine intervention, but even the pope considers the U.S. presidential race to be over.

President-elect Joe Biden, a lifelong Roman Catholic, spoke to Pope Francis on Thursday, despite President Trump refusing to concede. Biden’s transition team said in a statement that the president-elect thanked Francis for “extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation.” He also saluted the pontiff’s “leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation and the common bonds of humanity around the world.”

Biden said he hoped to work with Francis on issues such as climate change, poverty and immigration. The Vatican did not comment on the call.

Biden is only the second Catholic to win the presidency, after John F. Kennedy. But some bishops in the U.S. have declined to acknowledge Biden’s victory, arguing that Catholics should not back him because of his support for abortion rights.

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On Tuesday, for example, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris supported “the slaughter of innocents” at any point during pregnancy.

Biden has said he accepts Catholic Church doctrine on abortion on a personal level but does not want to impose that belief on everyone.

The reaction to a slam on Biden by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is evidence America’s Catholic voters no longer take their cues from the hierarchy.

Biden has had several phone calls this week from foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, congratulating him on winning. China, one of the last major holdouts, congratulated Biden on Friday.

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Having the pope on board likely has special significance for Biden. He speaks frequently and openly about the importance of faith in his life and attends Mass near his home in Wilmington, Del., nearly every week.

No matter their faith, U.S. politicians are often eager to meet with the pope when traveling near Rome, though Francis declined to meet with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo in September, citing rules against such sit-downs during election periods. Francis last visited the U.S. in 2015.

In its statement, the Biden transition team said the president-elect told the pontiff he would like to work together to further “a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants.”


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