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The pope’s U.S. visit in 2015 was a powerful moment for Biden.

todayOctober 29, 2021 2

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President Biden has met two previous popes: John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And he famously told Benedict to be easier on American nuns, the target of a Vatican crackdown for their activism on issues like poverty and health care.

But his fondness for Pope Francis is obvious.

When Francis visited the United States in September 2015, Mr. Biden along with President Barack Obama and their families met him at the airport. He and his wife, Jill Biden, were in the front row when Francis spoke at the White House. Mr. Biden sat behind the pope when he delivered his speech to Congress, and accompanied him through much of his six-day sojourn in the United States. Mr. Biden and his entire family then saw Francis off at Philadelphia International Airport.

It was a powerful meeting for Mr. Biden, still grieving over the loss of his son, Beau Biden, to cancer some five months before.

On a visit to Vatican City for the Third International Regenerative Medicine Conference in April 2016, Mr. Biden spoke about the urgent need to come up with new cures for cancer. (The conference was intended to highlight the extraordinary research advances being made with adult stem cells while largely sidestepping the issue of research using fetal tissue or embryonic stem cells.)

He also thanked Francis for that meeting in Philadelphia.

“He asked if he would meet with my family — we had just lost my son,” Mr. Biden said. “And he met with my extended family in the hangar behind where the aircraft was. And I wish every grieving parent, brother, sister, mother, father, would have the benefit of his words, his prayers, his presence. He provided us with more comfort that even he, I think, will understand.”

Francis then addressed the conference, encouraging participants to seek cures for cancers that affect few people and whose treatments might not be profitable, and to fight for access to treatment for all.

“This,” the pope said, “is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy.”

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