ROME – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an abortion rights advocate, met Pope Francis privately on Wednesday and received communion from a priest during a Papal Mass at the Basilica Saint Peter, according to one attendee.
Ms. Pelosi, who denounced Supreme Court decision repealing constitutional protections against abortion was “outrageous and heartbreaking,” sitting in the basilica’s VIP diplomatic area and receiving a private blessing from Pope Francis before morning mass celebrating the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. She then lined up to be in communion with the rest of the church by a priest.
The Vatican did not return a request to confirm 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 repeatedly called abortion a crime and murder, and supported the church’s absolute opposition to it, and during Wednesday’s Mass he said church leaders must “continue to be concerned with human life”. But Francis has also strongly opposed the politicization of sacraments in the church, and told the newly consecrated archbishops he had given the woolen scarf he stole Wednesday for inclusion and not “pinned in some of our fruitless debates”.
He added, “A lot of times we become a church with its doors wide open, but only to drive people away, to condemn them.”
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis issued a new encyclical on church liturgy, in which he stressed that the celebration of Mass belongs to “the whole of the faithful united in Christ.”
“The liturgy does not say ‘I’ but ‘us’,” wrote Francis, “and any limit on the breadth of the word ‘we’ is always the devil.”
Previously, Pope Francis said that “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone, “And preached that communion” is not the reward of the saints, but the bread of sinners. The Vatican has urged conservative bishops in the United States not to reduce the Lord’s Supper to a political issue after some floated the idea of refusing Communion last year to President Biden and other Catholic leaders. Other religions support abortion rights. Ms. Pelosi’s hometown priest, conservative Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, has said he will refuse her sacrament until she stops publicly advocating abortion rights.
The split between such conservative American bishops and Pope Francis, who clearly identified the United States as the source of opposition to his pontificate, has resulted in a rare open crack in the church. Last year, Francis’ top catechetical official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a letter to the bishops of the United States warning them that continuing efforts to deny communion with Catholic supporters The doctrine of abortion rights could “become a source of discord rather than unity among the bishops and larger churches in the United States. “
Ahead of Ms. Pelosi’s visit on Wednesday, Francis made it clear through the symbolism favored by the Vatican that he prefers a holistic approach.
During a visit to Rome in October, President Biden, the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years, received Holy Communion at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Rome after announcing that Pope Francis had spoken. told him during their lengthy private meeting at the Vatican that he should continue to receive the sacrament. The Vatican declined to comment at the time.
On Tuesday night, during a sausage and burger reception ahead of Independence Day at the residence of the US Embassy to the Holy See, Ms. Pelosi toasted the evening to a crowd of hundreds. , including ambassadors and priests, and former US ambassadors. to the Vatican Callista Gingrich and her husband, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Ms. Pelosi talked about the importance of faith and called Mr. Biden a man of deep faith.
“Trust 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 is also visiting Italian leaders during her time in Rome, followed the Mass with a visit to the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic charity that Francis admires for its work. its work with refugees and the poor.
Ms. Pelosi met with refugees there, and at an event marking a $25,000 gift from the State Department to charity, she mentioned that she attended Mass with Francis and church leaders and talk about the importance of evangelization through action.
“We are very pleased to have attended Mass this morning with the Holy Father and so many leaders of the church,” Ms. Pelosi said. “In the spirit of Saint Francis, the name of the Holy Father and my city of San Francisco, I thank you for preaching the Gospel, sometimes using words.”