The pontiff accorded U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken a substantial chunk of time, especially in view of a government official who isn’t a national leader.
The audience in the Apostolic Palace “played out in a cordial atmosphere,” a Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said. “It lasted about 40 minutes, and it was for the pope, the occasion to recall his 2015 visit and to express his affection and his attention to the people of the United States of America.”
Bruni was referring to the pontiff’s U.S. pilgrimage, which included a meeting at the White House with then-President Barack Obama. In recent years, the U.S. church hierarchy has been increasingly more polarized about U.S. politics and politicians.
Conservative U.S. bishops have been clamoring for clear directives against giving Holy Communion to U.S. political figures who are Roman Catholics and support women’s right to abortion. Vatican teaching forbids abortion as a grave sin. This campaign has put the spotlight on Biden, a Catholic who has said that while he personally opposes abortion, he supports abortion rights.
Earlier this month, the U.S. churchmen decided to go ahead and craft a document laying out their line on the Communion-politician issue. Only a month earlier, Francis’ top official on doctrinal orthodoxy had urged the bishops to think the matter through thoroughly and aim to keep divisions to the minimum.