Biden to hold a private meeting with Pope Francis on G7 summit sidelines

BARI, Italy — President Joe Biden is expected to meet with Pope Francis privately Friday on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy, according to a senior administration official.

The pontiff will become the first pope ever to attend G7 discussions and is choosing to focus his attention on artificial intelligence, both its technological advantages and potential dangers.

The meeting between Biden, a devout Catholic who attends Mass weekly, and the leader of the church comes days after a jury found his son Hunter Biden guilty of gun crimes related to his drug addiction. Biden, who frequently talks about the importance of his family and the loss of two of his children and his first wife, has pointed to his faith as guiding him through difficult times.

Biden last met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in October 2021, when the president praised him as “the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”

The two have exchanged written messages since then, the official said.

During his interview with special counsel Robert Hur last year, Biden said he was still in touch with the pontiff during a discussion on some folders that included one labeled “Papal Visits.”

“I still communicate with the pope, you know what I mean. But is it constant? No. Anyway,” he said, according to the transcript released by the White House.

Later, during some crosstalk, Biden joked: “He’s my ticket.” As the group laughed, he replied: “That was a joke.”

In Puglia, the pope is expected to have one-on-one meetings with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Kenya’s William Ruto and Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, according to the Vatican.

While Francis, 87, has said he intends to serve in his role for as long as his health will allow, there has been some speculation about a potential transition plan for the future. One possible successor is Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, the archbishop of Bologna. Biden met with him in the Oval Office last summer, where they discussed, among other things, the Vatican’s advocacy for the safe return of forcibly deported Ukrainian children.

Biden has known the current pope since 2013, when then-President Barack Obama tapped the nation’s first Catholic vice president to lead the American delegation to Rome for his inauguration.

The president later recalled that in his first brief meeting with the newly installed pontiff, Francis embraced him and said, “You’re always welcome here.”

In 2015, just three months after Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had died of brain cancer, the pope held a private audience with the president and his family before wrapping up a multiday visit to Philadelphia.

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