Pope urges U.S. reconciliation as bishops call out Biden on abortion

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis told President Joe Biden on Wednesday that he was praying that God would guide his efforts to bring reconciliation in the United States, while the head of the nation’s Catholic bishops condemned Biden’s pro-choice stand on abortion.

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer on Epiphany, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Vatican, January 6, 2021. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

In a message sent shortly after the second Catholic U.S. president was sworn in, Francis also said he hoped Biden would work towards a society marked by true justice, freedom and respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those with no voice.

“Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding,” Francis said.

“I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good,” he said.

Three days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Congress by supporters of former president Donald Trump, Francis said the violence had left him “astonished”.

In Wednesday’s message to Biden, the pope said the “grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses”.

The president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, served notice that the bishops will continue to fight Biden over his position on several moral issues, mainly abortion.

Biden, like many other Catholic politicians, has said he is personally against abortion but cannot impose his position on others.

Gomez praised Biden for what he called the new president’s “moving witness” on how his faith brought him solace in times of tragedy and his commitment to the poor but said bishops had to proclaim all the truth of the Gospel.

“So, I must point out that our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender,” Gomez said.

In a move that underscored the deep divisions among U.S. bishops on how to approach the new administration, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said Gomez’s statement was “ill-considered” and that many bishops had not been consulted.

Many Catholic conservatives supported Trump. Francis had a rocky relationship with Trump, disagreeing with him on a series of issues including immigration and climate change.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey and David Gregorio