ROME – In one of his most keenly anticipated meetings since taking office in January, United States President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Friday for a lengthy conversation that touched on a variety of issues of shared interest.

An Oct. 29 White House statement said that Biden thanked Pope Francis “for his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution” during the 75-minute conversation.

Biden also “lauded Pope Francis’ leadership in fighting the climate crisis, as well as his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery.”

There was no mention of abortion or other life issues, on which Biden is known to be at odds with official Church teaching, in the statement.

In the Vatican’s own statement, they said the “cordial” discussions touched on an array of issues, including the environment, the fight against COVID-19, assistance for migrants and refugees, as well as the protection of human rights, including “freedom of religion and conscience.”

They also spoke about “some matters regarding the current international situation,” the G20 summit in Rome this weekend, and the promotion of world peace “through political negotiation.”

Notably, there was no reference to life or life issues in the Vatican statement.

Biden, only the second Catholic U.S. President in history, had met Pope Francis previously on three different occasions while he was vice president, the first being in 2013 after the Mass for Pope Francis’s inauguration after his election to the papacy.

The two met again in 2015 during Francis’s visit to the United States for the World Meeting of Families, shortly after Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer. They then met a third time at the Vatican in 2016 when Biden was invited to speak at a conference on adult stem-cell research.

After arriving at the Vatican shortly after 12 p.m. local time, Biden and Francis spoke for over an hour – 75 minutes – during their closed-door meeting.

It is unusual for a pope’s meeting with a head of state to last so long, with most lasting no more than 30 minutes.

Francis’s meetings with Biden’s two immediate predecessors were significantly shorter, with his 2014 audience with Barack Obama lasting around 52 minutes, and his 2017 audience with Donald Trump lasting around 30 minutes.

Biden is currently in Rome for a two-day G20 leaders’ summit, after which he will head to Glasgow, Scotland to attend the United Nations COP26 climate conference.

As he arrived in the Vatican, Biden was cheerful, and exchanged smiles and handshakes with the Vatican officials waiting in the San Damaso courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. After Biden and Francis’s meeting, which concluded at 1:25p.m. local time, the two exchanged gifts.

Pope Francis gave Biden a painting on a ceramic tile titled, “The Pilgrim,” as well as several recent papal documents, including this year’s Message for Peace and a 2019 Document on Human Fraternity.

Biden, for his part, gave the pope a handwoven chasuble dating back to 1930.

After the meeting, Biden, who was accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as other representatives from the White House and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, met with Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, British Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

Biden left the Vatican just before 2:50p.m. local time, almost three hours after his arrival.

It is no surprise that social issues such as poverty, climate change, and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic were discussed during the meeting, as these have long been seen as areas of overlap between the pope and the Biden administration.

Many of these same issues were discussed during a phone call between the two shortly after Biden won the U.S. presidential election in November 2020.

At the time, Biden’s team released a statement thanking Pope Francis for his leadership “in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world.”

Biden pledged his commitment to work with the Vatican and the Catholic Church “on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

Although the pope did not issue a public congratulations for Biden’s victory, his phone call was interpreted as an act of support for the newly elected president.

In a customary congratulatory note for Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, Pope Francis offered his prayers for Biden, asking specifically that his decisions would respect human life.

In his message, Pope Francis prayed that under Biden’s leadership, the American people would “continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding.”

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses,” the pope said, “I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice.”

Although abortion and life issues were not mentioned in either the Vatican or White House statements on the pope and Biden’s meeting, Biden’s pro-choice policies have been a point of contention for many Catholics in the United States, including many bishops.

Some bishops have even suggested that Biden and other pro-choice Catholic politicians be denied Communion.

That was a strong underlying issue in the lead up to Biden and Francis’s meeting, as the U.S. bishops are set to meet Nov. 15-18 for their fall general assembly, during which they are expected to vote on a “teaching document on the Eucharist.”

The decision to draft this document was made during the bishops’ spring assembly and given some bishops’ insistence on denying pro-choice politicians Communion, many have questioned whether the document will offer any formal “yes” or “no” instruction on the question.

Pope Francis responded to a question about the issue on his return flight from Slovakia last month, saying bishops should approach the question from a “pastoral” perspective, rather than a political one.

“The problem is not theological, it’s pastoral,” he said. “How we bishops deal with this principle. We must be pastors, also with those who are excommunicated. Like God with passion and tenderness. The Bible says so.”

“The pastor knows what to do. In every moment that he leaves the church’s pastoral path he immediately becomes a politician,” he said.

Friday’s meeting between Biden and Pope Francis was preceded by a commotion among the Vatican press corps when the Vatican announced, then cancelled, the live feed of the pope and Biden’s greeting.

Usually for visits of heads of state such as this, a live feed is available from the moment of arrival until the two men enter the papal library for their closed-door meeting, picking back up again for the pope’s meeting of the delegation and the exchange of gifts between the two leaders.

The Vatican had originally announced that the live feed would be available, however, on Thursday they said this feed would be cancelled, showing only Biden’s arrival to the Vatican’s outer courtyard, with edited footage being provided later.

In their official explanation for the cancellation of the feed, the Vatican said they were sticking to the outdoor arrival in keeping with new post-Covid protocols, which left many Vatican journalists questioning why the feed was announced in the first place, and then cancelled.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen