Joe Biden has received communion while attending Mass in the American church of Rome, a day after the US president met Pope Francis and said later the pontiff had told him he is a “good Catholic ” who can receive the sacrament.
The Mass and Biden’s statement beforehand widened a gulf between Francis and conservative US bishops who want to deny him the right to receive communion because of Biden’s support for abortion rights.
A person inside the church on Saturday told Reuters the president, who attended the Mass sitting in the back of the church with his wife Jill, received communion.
Biden regularly attends Mass and receives communion in Washington, where the local archbishop, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, has not made any moves to stop him.
Biden, the second Catholic US president, has said he personally opposes to abortion but, as an elected official, cannot impose his views on others.
In Rome, where he was taking part in a summit of the G20 world’s richest nations, he attended the Mass at St Patrick’s Church, near the US embassy.
Pope Francis is also the bishop of Rome, so Biden went to Mass and received communion in his archdiocese.
Last month the Pope, asked about the US communion debate, told reporters abortion is “murder”, even soon after conception, but appeared to criticise US bishops for dealing with the issue in a political rather than pastoral way.
“Communion is not a prize for the perfect,” the Pope said. “Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his church.”
In June, a divided conference of US Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on communion that some bishops say should specifically admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden. They take up the issue again next month.