- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The White House denied Tuesday a report saying that the Vatican scuttled an early plan for President Biden to attend Mass and receive communion from Pope Francis as part of the president’s current European trip.

A White House official flatly contradicted a Monday report from the Catholic News Agency that said “President Joe Biden‘s attendance at early morning Mass with Pope Francis was nixed from an early plan for the first meeting of both leaders,” citing “a reliable Vatican source.”

“That is untrue,” said the administration official in an email.

The story referred to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ June 16-18 virtual meeting, where the bishops are expected to take up the issue of “Eucharistic coherence” following recent debate on whether Catholic political leaders such as Mr. Biden who advocate for abortion rights should be able to receive the Eucharist.

“The President’s entourage had originally requested for Biden to attend Mass with the pope early in the morning, but the proposal was nixed by the Vatican after considering the impact that Biden receiving Holy Communion from the pope would have on the discussions the USCCB is planning to have during their meeting starting Wednesday, June 16,” said the CNA article.

The CNA later added a note at the top of the story that corrected its previous statement that Mr. Biden and Pope Francis would meet on Tuesday.

“In a story June 14, 2021, about Joe Biden and Pope Francis, the Catholic News Agency, based on information provided by a source, erroneously reported that the U.S. President would meet with the pope on June 15. According to Vatican sources June 15, there is no meeting currently scheduled between Pope Francis and President Joe Biden,” said the Tuesday note.

Mr. Biden arrived Tuesday in Geneva for his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the final leg of the president’s European trip after the Group of Seven nations meeting in Cornwall, England, and the NATO summit in Brussels.

The National Catholic Reporter, which is more liberal than the conservative CNA, expressed skepticism over the report in its own article Tuesday headlined, “No, Pope Francis did not cancel a meeting with President Biden.”

The NCR included a quote from a public-affairs officer at the U.S. embassy to the Holy See that said, “President Biden has no plans to visit Rome or Vatican City this week.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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