House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday met with Pope Francis amid criticism from several bishops for her support for abortion which some view as at odds with her Catholic faith.
The meeting occurred just weeks before President Biden, who is also Catholic, is scheduled to meet with the pope later this month.
“It was a spiritual, personal, and official honor to have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis this morning, Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement Saturday. “His Holiness’s leadership is a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant and the poor, and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone.”
Over the summer, conservative Catholics pressed church leaders to deny the sacrament of Holy Communion to Catholic politicians whose policy decisions do not align with Catholic teachings after Mr. Biden omitted from the fiscal year 2022 budget a reference to the 1976 “Hyde Amendment,” which banned federal funding for most abortion procedures.
Among the group of conservatives advocating for refusing Communion to the policymakers was San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, in the speaker’s district.
Others in the church have adopted the stance of the pope, who declared in a June 7 homily that the Eucharist “is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.”
More recently Mr. Biden came under fire from Archbishop Cardinal Wilton Gregory who told the National Press Club in September that the president “is not demonstrating Catholic teaching,” after speaking in support of Roe v. Wade and stating that he did not agree with the belief that “life begins at the moment of conception and all.”
“Don’t agree, but I respect that,” the president said.
Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden have been outspoken in their support for abortion in recent weeks following a Supreme Court decision last month that upheld a Texas law restricting abortions in the state.
Soon after the Supreme Court decision, Mrs. Pelosi paved the way for a House vote on a measure to protect abortion rights, known as the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill narrowly passed 218 to 211 in the House. The bill, which is expected to face significant opposition from Senate Republicans, is not likely to make its way into law.
Mrs. Pelosi’s said in her statement following the meeting that the two focused on initiatives related to climate change and recovery from COVID-19. She did not mention abortion in her statement.
“I expressed the gratitude of those working on climate action in the Congress for the immense moral clarity and urgency that His Holiness continues to bring to the climate crisis, and how we continue to cherish his address to the Joint Session of Congress in 2015,” she said.
Both Mr. Biden and Mrs. Pelosi have met with the pontiff on several occasions. Mr. Biden’s meeting scheduled for later this month will be his first since taking office.