President Joe Biden Jokes with Pope Francis About Buying Drinks and Getting Older

The Bidens exchanged gifts with His Holiness and shared a "clear rapport" during a 90-minute meeting at the Vatican on Friday

Bidens, Pope Francis
Photo: Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty

President Joe Biden was beaming during a 90-minute audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the world's two most powerful Catholics met on Friday.

Though Biden addressed serious topics such as world poverty, hunger, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, there were lighthearted moments as well between the second Catholic U.S. president and the leader of the church.

For instance, after giving Francis a coin and explaining its symbolic and personal significance, Biden told His Holiness through a translator, "The tradition is — and I'm only kidding about this — next time I see you, you don't have it, you have to buy the drinks."

Francis laughed during the exchange and accepted the coin, which Biden said is a gift presidents give to "warriors and leaders."

"You are the most significant warrior for peace I've ever met. And with your permission, I'd like to be able to give you a coin. It has the U.S. seal on the front. What's different with this coin ... I know my son would want me to give it to you," Biden added, referring to his son Beau Biden, a National Guardsman who died of cancer in 2015. "On the back of it, I have the state of Delaware, the 261st Unit my son served with."

Bidens, Pope Francis
President Joe Biden (left) and Pope Francis. Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty
Bidens, Pope Francis
Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty

A White House official told reporters of the meeting that "the engagement between the two was very warm when the delegation arrived in the room. There was laughter and clear rapport between President Biden and Pope Francis."

"I'm the only Irishman you've ever met who's never had a drink," Biden said after the line about the Pope buying a round, prompting Francis to quip, "Irish people love whisky."

Biden, 78, and Francis, 84, also joked about age. "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?" Biden asked.

Bidens, Pope Francis
Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty

"You're 65," Francis replied. "I'm 60. God love you."

The jovial meeting comes amid a serious debate among U.S. bishops about whether the president, who is pro-abortion access, should be allowed to receive communion given the church's stance on abortion.

Francis has said that the matter of taking communion should be "pastoral" rather than political.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden joined her husband during the meeting with Francis as part of the U.S. delegation that also included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other administration officials.

Bidens, Pope Francis
Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty

The entourage arrived in a motorcade at the courtyard of the Vatican just before noon local time. The president and first lady — who wore a mantilla, the traditional black lace veil — greeted Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, the head of papal household, and Francis' attendants known as the papal gentlemen.

Bidens, Pope Francis
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The Bidens also gave Francis a hand-woven vestment from the 1930s that comes from Washington, D.C.'s Holy Trinity Church, where the nation's first Catholic president, John. F. Kennedy, worshiped.

After his audience with Francis, President Biden met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin. During a meeting later Friday afternoon with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Biden was asked about his time with Pope Francis and said it was "wonderful."

He is next scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, before attending the Group of 20 summit in Italy this weekend.

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