Jan 28, 2022

Share this article

Biden meets Pope: Jokes about drinking and baseball…but not abortion

Listen, O coastlands, to me, And give heed, O nations afar: Hashem appointed me before I was born, He named me while I was in my mother’s womb. Isaiah 49:1

President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday for 75 minutes. Upon arrival, the president and First Lady were greeted by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, who runs the papal household, and then greeted one by one the papal ushers.

“It’s good to be back,” Biden said as he shook the hand their hands. “I’m Jill’s husband.”

“I’m not sure if this is appropriate, but there’s a tradition in America,” Biden began, speaking with the Pope through a translator. “The president has what is called a ‘command coin’ that he gives to warriors and leaders.”

“And you are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met,” he told the Pope. “And with your permission, I’d like to be able to give you a coin.”


“Now the tradition is, and I’m only kidding about this,” Biden said as he put the coin into the Pope’s hand. “If next time I see you and you don’t have it, you have to buy the drinks.”

“I’m the only Irishman you’ve ever met who’s never had a drink,” he quickly added, to which the Pope responded through his translator that Irish people “love whiskey.”

“I know that!” Biden exclaimed.

Biden then related a story to the pope about Leroy “Satchel” Paige, a black baseball player. Biden related how Paige became the oldest player to make his debut in the major leagues when, in 1948, he played his first game. He was also the first black pitcher in the league. In 1966, at the age of 59 Paige also became the oldest player to appear in a major league game when he ended his career. 

“Usually, pitchers lose their arms when they’re 35,” Biden told Pope Francis. “He pitched a win on his 47th birthday. The press walked into the locker room and said — his name was Satchel Paige — they came in and said, ‘Satch, no one’s ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about pitching a win on your birthday?’ He looked at them and said, ‘Boys, that’s not how I look at age. I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’”

It was unclear why the president felt it was appropriate to tell this story to the pontiff but Biden added, “You’re 65. I’m 60.”

Though the first half of Biden’s story is a quote attributed to Paige, who frequently joked about his age, the origin of the second half referring to the ages of 65 and 60 are unknown. 

Pope Francis is currently 84-years old and President Biden is 78-years old. 

“God love ya,” Biden said to the pope at the end of the meeting.

This was the fourth time Biden, the first Catholic President since John F. Kennedy, met with the pope. Biden visited the Vatican before traveling to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. After initial plans to broadcast the meeting live, the Vatican announced on Thursday that there would be no live broadcast.

According to the president, his faith did come up in his conversation with the pope.

“We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic and I should keep receiving communion,” Biden said.

The next day, Biden received Communion at St. Patrick’s Church during Saturday Vigil Mass.

Some US Bishops were less forgiving than Pope Francis. 

 Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island petitioned the pope ahead of the meeting to deny communion to Biden due to his pro-abortion platform. 

“Dear Pope Francis, You have boldly stated that abortion is ‘murder,’” Tobin tweeted before the meeting.  “Please challenge President Biden on this critical issue. His persistent support of abortion is an embarrassment for the Church and a scandal to the world. Thank you. Very respectfully, Your brother +Thomas.”

“I fear that the Church has lost its prophetic voice,” Bishop Tobin tweeted after the meeting. “Where are the John the Baptists who will confront the Herods of our day?”

In June, an overwhelming majority of the bishops of the  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in favor of proceeding with the draft of a document providing guidelines for the reception of communion leaving “decisions on withholding Communion (referred to as the Eucharist) up to individual bishops.” If accepted, this would permit priests to withhold communion from politicians who support abortion.

In response, a group of 60 Catholic House Democrats released a “statement of principles” warning Catholic Bishops that the Church may lose its tax-exempt status unless they toe the left-wing party line. 

Such a move, weaponizing the IRS, would violate the protected status of religious institutions but it would not be unprecedented by a Democratic government. In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) revealed that it had selected Conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny, triggering an FBI investigation.

In November 2019, a church in South Carolina declined to give the campaigning former vice president communion. The pastor, Robert Morey, cited Biden’s “unrepented, unforgiven sins”, in particular, his advocating for abortion.