NEW YORK – Despite ongoing tensions between Nancy Pelosi and a portion of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference over her pro-abortion stance, the Speaker of the House had a private audience with Pope Francis Saturday morning that she called “a spiritual, personal and official honor.”
“His Holiness’s leadership is a source of joy and hope for Catholics and for all people, challenging each of us to be good stewards of God’s creation, to act on climate, to embrace the refugee, the immigrant and the poor, and to recognize the dignity and divinity in everyone,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Pelosi is the third high-level U.S. official to be received in audience by Pope Francis and senior Vatican officials this year, after John Kerry, the special presidential envoy for climate, on May 15, and Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, on June 28.
Pelosi was accompanied by her husband, Paul, and by Patrick Connell, the Charges d’Affaires of the United States Embassy to the Holy See. Connell is heading embassy operations awaiting Senate confirmation of former Indiana Sen. Joseph Donnelly as President Joe Biden’s new envoy to the Vatican.
Pro-abortion Catholic politicians, particularly President Joe Biden and Pelosi, have been a frequent, sometimes contentious topic among the U.S. bishops with a number of prelates advocating that they, and others, be barred from communion.
In Pelosi’s case, the back and forth between her and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco – Pelosi’s home diocese – are well documented. The latest chapter is the “Rose and Rosary for Nancy” campaign Cordileone launched at the end of September.
The campaign invites Catholics to pray one rosary a week and to fast on Fridays “for her conversion of heart” on abortion. It includes sending a rose to Pelosi’s San Francisco offices to let Pelosi know Catholics are praying for her. The goal is to deliver 10,000 roses in October, according to the Benedict XVI Institute that is spearheading the effort. The institute announced back on Oct. 1 that over 3,500 Catholics sent Pelosi a rose in the first 24 hours.
Though not naming Pelosi directly, Cordileone also published a pastoral letter in May advocating that pro-abortion politicians be barred from receiving communion.
“Our responsibility to the rest of the Catholic community is to assure them that the Church of Jesus Christ does take most seriously her mission to care for ‘the least of these,’ as Our Lord has commanded us, and to correct Catholics who erroneously, and sometimes stubbornly, promote abortion,” Cordileone wrote in the 17-page pastoral letter titled, “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew: A Pastoral Letter on The Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life.”
“This correction takes several forms and rightly begins with private conversations between the erring Catholic and his or her parish priest or bishop,” Cordileone continued. “Because we are dealing with public figures and public examples of cooperation in moral evil, this correction can also take the public form of exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion.”
The Vatican has stayed relatively mute on the situation in the U.S., but it’s well known that Pope Francis prefers a less confrontational approach. During a recent news conference, the pope was asked about proposals to deny communion to pro-abortion politicians and, in reply, urged bishops to be “pastors, not politicians.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, also met with Pelosi on Oct. 8. Turkson recently stated to Axios host Mike Allen that he doesn’t believe pro-abortion politicians should be denied communion.
Along with Pope Francis, Pelosi on Saturday met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states. The trip abroad for the Speaker of the House started with the G20 Parliamentary Speaker’s Summit on Oct. 7, and included a meeting later on Oct. 9 with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella.
In Pelosi’s statement on her visit with Pope Francis, she called his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ a “powerful challenge to the global community to act decisively on the climate crisis with special attention to the most vulnerable communities.”
Pelosi also spoke of Pope Francis’s significance to her home diocese.
“In San Francisco, we take special pride in Pope Francis, who shares the namesake of our city and whose song of St. Francis is our anthem. ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, may we bring love. Where there is despair, may we bring hope’,” Pelosi said.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg