13 November 2020

Pope congratulates Joe Biden on election victory

13 November 2020

It is not exactly divine intervention, but even the Pope considers the US presidential race over.

President-elect Joe Biden, a lifelong Roman Catholic, spoke to Pope Francis on Thursday, despite Donald Trump refusing to concede the election, claiming — without evidence — that the election was stolen through massive but unspecified acts of fraud.

Mr Biden’s transition team said in a statement that the president-elect thanked Francis for “extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation”.

He also saluted the pontiff’s “leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation and the common bonds of humanity around the world”.

Mr Biden said he hopes to work with Francis on issues such as climate change, poverty and immigration.

Joe Biden (AP)

News of the call came even as some Catholic bishops in the US declined to acknowledge Mr Biden’s victory, arguing that the faithful should not back him because of his support for abortion rights.

On Tuesday, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted that Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris support “the slaughter of innocents” at any point during pregnancy.

Mr Biden has said he accepts church doctrine about abortion on a personal level, but does not want to impose that belief on everyone.

He has had several phone calls this week with foreign leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They have congratulated him on winning and consider the election settled.

Having the Pope on board is likely to have special significance for Mr Biden.

He is just the second Catholic to be elected president in US history, and the first since John F Kennedy. He speaks frequently and openly about the importance of faith in his life and attends mass near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, nearly every week.

The American people have spoken in this election. Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good

No matter their faith, American politicians are often eager to meet the Pope when traveling near Rome, although Francis declined to meet Mr Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo in September, citing rules against such sit-downs during election periods. Francis last visited the US in 2015.

Known for advocating openness on issues like gay rights, the environment and religious tolerance, Francis has been embraced by some liberals as furthering their causes.

In its statement, the Biden transition team said the president-elect told the pontiff he would like to work together to further “a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalised and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants”.

The Vatican confirmed the call but offered no comment about the content. The Vatican’s media portal quoted a statement by the head of the US bishops conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, in congratulating Mr Biden.

“The American people have spoken in this election. Now is the time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity and to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise for the common good,” Vatican News quoted Mr Gomez as saying.

The US ambassador to the Holy See is Callista Gingrich, whose husband, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, has been among vocal supporters of Mr Trump as he refuses acknowledge Mr Biden’s victory. Ms Gingrich tweeted a selfie of the couple at Mr Trump’s north Virginia golf club on the day Mr Biden was declared the winner while the president played golf.

In the election, 50% of Catholic voters backed Mr Trump and 49% favoured Mr Biden, according to VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters nationwide conducted for the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

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