Presidents and popes over the years: Gifts, gaffes, grief

Presidents and Popes

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis on Friday, he won’t kiss the ring.

Biden, who has met with Francis three times and with two previous popes, has said he eschews the traditional sign of respect because his mother told him not to — that no one is “better” than him. In their meeting, the two are expected to discuss issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as equals.

Biden, only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, often speaks publicly about his faith and attends Mass every weekend.

As a second-term senator, Biden met with Pope John Paul II in 1980, when the two spent a reportedly chummy 45 minutes together. As vice president, he met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, when he famously told the pope to go easier on American nuns, who then were under fire by the church for activism on issues like poverty.

By all accounts, Biden has a positive relationship with the current pontiff, beginning when he attended Francis’ inauguration as pope in 2013. They also met during the pontiff’s 2015 visit, including a private meeting where Biden said the pope prayed for his family as they mourned the recent death of Biden’s son Beau. In 2016, they met again, when Biden spoke about cancer care at a conference on regenerative medicine at the Vatican.