Vatican mysteriously cuts live broadcast of Biden’s meeting with Pope

White House says it’s ‘working through every lever we have’ to get media access

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 28 October 2021 16:06
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The Vatican mysteriously cancelled the live broadcast that was to take place as US President Joe Biden is set to meet Pope Francis.

The press office for the Vatican didn’t explain why they had chosen to cancel the broadcast, which will now only show Mr Biden arriving at the Apostolic Palace where he will be met by a Vatican monsignor.

Mr Biden meeting the pope in the Throne Room will no longer be shown, the AP reported. The president and the pope sitting down in his library to begin talks will also not be broadcast. This is usually the time that the broadcast ends.

Edited footage will be given to some media outlets after the meeting has occurred, the Vatican has said.

Mr Biden is only the second Catholic to serve as US president, following John F Kennedy. Mr Biden has met Pope Francis three times already, but this will be the first time during his time as president.

US bishops will be watching the event ahead of their annual fall convention, where one of the items on the agenda has been pushed by conservatives who believe that Mr Biden shouldn’t receive communion because he’s pro-choice.

While the bishops’ aren’t expected to directly blast Mr Biden by name, a document emerging from the conference could still contain a critical message.

While Pope Francis has been seen as a progressive by some, he has held firm on the church’s abortion stance, calling it “murder”. But he has also stated that bishops shouldn’t act like politicians.

The Vatican has provided broadcasts of visits for years and had initially scheduled such coverage for Mr Biden on Friday and for South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the US president. The two leaders will be in Rome, Italy for a meeting of the G20 countries.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vatican has denied access to independent reporters and photographers and has also used the pandemic as a reason to block external media from viewing the beginnings and endings of meetings with the pope, despite allowing media at other events he attends.

When leaders meet the pope in his library, reporters can usually see the gift exchange, the taking of the formal photograph of the meeting, and overhear snippets of conversation to get a feel for the relationship between the two. For the time being, only the Pope’s own photographer and Vatican video journalists will be allowed in the room.

The Vatican correspondents’ association and multiple media outlets have pushed back against the lack of media access. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that the administration is “working through every lever we have” to give the media more access to the meeting. The White House press pool would usually be allowed to see the start and end of a meeting of this kind.

“We believe in the value of the free press. We believe in the value of ensuring you have access to the president’s trips and his visits overseas,” Ms Psaki added. “I can’t offer you a guarantee, but I can guarantee you we will continue to advocate.”

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