President Biden’s Trip to Europe

Finn Harrison, Senior Copy Editor

President Biden meets with Pope Francis in the Vatican, 2021. Photo Courtesy of AP Archive.

On the 29th of October, President Biden christened his latest and second presidential trip to Europe to meet with Pope Francis, official leader of the Catholic Church, in the Vatican. The President was to meet with the Pope, attend the G-20 summit in Rome, and meet with world leaders in Glasgow, all in one trip. 

Biden for the past several months had been focusing on issues at home, most importantly his infrastructure bill which he had, at the time of the trip, not passed yet. However, Biden’s agenda since his election has not just been domestically focused, he has spoken often about his hopes to rebuild relationships with American allies across the globe in the aftermath of the isolationist Trump agenda.

According to sources, President Biden, only America’s second Catholic presidentthe first being John F. Kennedyhit it off with Pope Francis, both men expressing their desire to see solutions to issues such as climate change and world poverty. Several photos of the two showed them exchanging warm smiles. Biden has said in the past that he takes pride in his Catholic faith. Pope Francis also reportedly told the Biden that he should continue receiving communion in the wake of the Presidents’ support of legal abortions and same sex marriage. During a press conference after the meeting the President appeared to have an emotional moment saying, “When I won, [Pope Francis] called me to tell me how much he appreciated the fact that I would focus on the poor. Focus on the needs of people who are in trouble,” Biden said. “He is everything I learned about Catholicism from the time I was a kid going from grade school to high school.”

Lake Forest Academy has a large Catholic population, so it was interesting to see how members of the community felt represented by the fact that their President was meeting with the leader of their denomination. On the matter, Jack Wyne’23, a practicing Catholic at LFA, “I guess to some extent it is kinda nice to see some change since most of our Presidents have been protestant, we’ve had very few Catholic presidents, it’s still kind of a once in a lifetime kind of deal.” On the issue of the Presidents’ continued communion Wyne said “No one can be denied communion based on what they internalize or believe, politically.”

After meeting with the Pope, the President met with members of G-20 in Rome. The G-20, for context, is an annual summit with 20 of the world’s most powerful nations. During this years’ summit, the nations reaffirmed developed countries’ commitment to mobilize 100 billion dollars and to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees. More widely, the President said it was nice to see other world leaders in person and reassert American leadership on the world stage saying, “I’m looking forward to continuing to make progress on critical global issues as we head off to Glasgow because of what we’ve seen again here in Rome, what I think is the power of America showing up and working with our allies and partners to make progress on issues that matter to all of us, there’s really no substitute for face-to-face discussions and negotiations among the leaders when it comes to building understanding and cooperation,” Biden said. “When you’re looking at someone straight in the eye when you’re trying to get done — they know me, I know them, we can get things done together.”

After leaving the Rome G-20 conference, the President left for Glasgow to join in on the United Nation climate summit. Nations at the conference agreed to reduce emissions of methane and reverse deforestation worldwide by 2030. There were however, two major absences at the conference, America’s two largest competitors, China and Russia. The President chided them for not attending after praising the conference as a whole, “I can’t think of any two days when more has been accomplished, I think it’s been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China … not showing up,” Biden said. “They’ve lost the ability to influence people around the world.” 

Ultimately, President Biden, with this trip, asserted that America under the Biden administration was in his words “back at the table,” even if some of America’s adversaries abroad wished not to participate in the conversation. At the same time, the President also reaffirmed his reasons for running, religion included.