Pope Francis has met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat politician often at the centre of controversy over her support for abortion.
The Vatican had released no information about what the Pope and Mrs Pelosi discussed together on Saturday in line with its usual custom for papal meetings with non-heads of state.
But it noted the audience in its daily bulletin, saying that the House Speaker was accompanied by her husband, the businessman Paul Pelosi, and entourage.
Photographs released by the Vatican showed that Pelosi also met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher, formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
The first Italian-American Speaker of the House was in Rome to give the keynote address at the opening session of the G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit. She also met the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi.
The day before her audience with the Pope, the 81-year-old discussed the environment, migration, and human rights during a visit to the Vatican.
In a statement after the papal audience, Pelosi described her meeting with the Pontiff as a “spiritual, personal and official honour”.
She said: “His Holiness’ 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.”
“His Holiness’ encyclical Laudato si’ is a powerful challenge to the global community to act decisively on the climate crisis with special attention to the most vulnerable communities.
“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 continued: “His Holiness commands our attention to honour the Gospel of Matthew by serving ‘the least of these’, lifting up those who have been left out or left behind, especially in the time of COVID.
“In San Francisco, we take special pride in Pope Francis, who shares the namesake of our city and whose song of St Francis is our anthem. ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, may we bring love. Where there is despair, may we bring hope.’”
The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development first announced the visit in a post on its Twitter account.
Mrs Pelosi was accompanied to the Vatican on Friday by Patrick Connell, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
On the same day, the White House announced that former U.S. senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana is President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
Mrs Pelosi, a Catholic mother of five, has clashed repeatedly with the archbishop of her home diocese over her support for abortion.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone launched a prayer campaign last month aimed at inspiring “a conversion of heart” among politicians supporting abortion.
“A conversion of heart of the majority of our Congressional representatives is needed on this issue, beginning with the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the San Francisco archbishop said.
“I am therefore inviting all Catholics to join in a massive and visible campaign of prayer and fasting for Speaker Pelosi: commit to praying one rosary a week and fasting on Fridays for her conversion of heart.”
Archbishop Cordileone urged Catholics and people of goodwill to sign up for the “Rose and a rosary for Nancy Pelosi” campaign.
A rose will be sent to the Speaker “as a symbol of your prayer and fasting for her,” he explained.
In May, Mrs Pelosi said that she was “pleased” with a Vatican letter to the U.S. bishops which addressed Communion for pro-abortion politicians. She claimed that the Vatican had instructed the bishops not to be “divisive” on the issue.
In response, Archbishop Cordileone said the Vatican was in fact promoting “dialogue” between bishops and pro-abortion politicians “to help them understand the grave evil they are helping to perpetrate and accompany them to a change of heart”.
“Speaker Pelosi’s positive reaction” to the letter, he noted, “raises hope that progress can be made in this most serious matter.”
In July, Archbishop Cordileone criticised Mrs Pelosi after she cited her Catholic faith while defending efforts to permit federal funding of elective abortions.
“Let me repeat: no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it,” he said.
Mrs Pelosi had a 15-minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
The Vatican said that the German pope “took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death”.
Pope Francis is expected to receive Joe Biden on October 29, in the U.S. president’s first official visit to the Vatican since his inauguration, according to sources at the Apostolic Palace.
President Biden, the second Catholic president in U.S. history, is due to attend the G20 summit in Rome on October 30–31.
Image caption: Paul and Nancy Pelosi during their meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Oct. 9, 2021./ Vatican Media (via CNA)
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