ROME – US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a staunch defender of abortion rights, had a private meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday and received communion from a priest during a papal mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, according to one participant.
Ms. Pelosi, who has condemned the Supreme Court’s decision to remove constitutional protections for abortion as “outrageous and heartbreaking,” sat in a VIP diplomatic area of the basilica and received a private blessing from Francis before the morning Mass that the feasts fourth of St. Peter and St. Paul. She later lined up to receive communion from a priest with the rest of the congregation.
The Vatican did not return a confirmation request about the meeting, but released a photo of Ms Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, greeting Francis at the side of the basilica.
Pope Francis has consistently called abortion evil and murderous, affirming the Church’s utter opposition to it, saying at Wednesday’s Mass that Church leaders must “continue to care for human life.” But Francis has also strongly opposed the politicization of ecclesiastical sacraments, telling newly ordained archbishops to whom he gave the woolen pallium stole on Wednesday to be inclusive and not to “get stuck on some of our fruitless debates.”
He added: “So often we become a church with open doors, but only to send people away, to condemn them.”
Earlier in the day, Francis published a new apostolic letter on the ecclesiastical liturgy, in which he emphasized that the celebration of the Mass belongs to “the whole of the faithful united in Christ”.
“The liturgy does not say ‘I’ but ‘we’,” Francis wrote, “and any limitation on the scope of this ‘we’ is always demonic.”
Francis has said in the past, “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” and he has preached that Communion is “not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners.” The Vatican has urged conservative bishops in the United States not to reduce the sacrament to a political issue after several suggested last year the idea of denying President Biden and other Catholic leaders who support abortion rights the idea of denying communion. . The pastor of Mrs. Pelosi’s hometown, conservative Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, had said he would deny her the sacrament until she stops publicly supporting abortion rights.
The rift between such conservative American bishops and Pope Francis, who has explicitly identified the United States as the source of opposition to his pontificate, has led to a rare open rift in the church. Francis’s top doctrinal official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a letter to US bishops last year warning them that continuing an effort to deny Catholic supporters of abortion rights “could become a source of discord rather than unity.” within the episcopate and the greater church in the United States.”
Well before Ms. Pelosi’s visit on Wednesday, Francis had made clear through the symbolism favored by the Vatican that he prefers an inclusive approach.
During a visit to Rome in October, President Biden, the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years, received Communion at St. Patrick’s Church in Rome after announcing Pope Francis to meet him during their long private meeting in the Vatican. told him to continue taking the sacrament. The Vatican declined to comment at the time.
On Tuesday night, during an Independence Day reception of hot dogs and burgers at the residence of the US Embassy to the Holy See, Ms. Pelosi made the evening’s toast to a crowd of hundreds, including ambassadors and priests, and former US ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich and her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Ms. Pelosi spoke of the importance of faith and referred to Mr. Biden as a man of deep faith.
“Faith is an important gift, not everyone has it, but it is the path to so many other things,” she said.
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On Wednesday, Ms Pelosi, who also visits Italian leaders during her stay in Rome, followed Mass with a visit to the Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic charity that Francis admires for her work with refugees and the poor.
Ms. Pelosi met refugees there and, at an event celebrating a $25,000 donation from the State Department to charity, mentioned her attendance at Mass with Francis and church leaders and spoke of the importance of preaching the gospel through actions.
“We had the pleasure of attending Mass this morning with His Holiness and many, many, many Church leaders,” said Ms. Pelosi. “In the spirit of St. Francis, the name of His Holiness and my city of San Francisco, I thank you for preaching the gospel, sometimes using words.”