Biden meets with Pope and Macron ahead of G20 summit

By Kara Fox, Aditi Sangal, Kathryn Snowdon, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 4:31 p.m. ET, October 29, 2021
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6:53 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Biden and first lady greet Vatican officials

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The president's vehicle pulled to a stop in an interior courtyard of the Vatican at noon local time, and Biden and wife Jill stepped from their limo, which was bearing the flag of the Holy See.

They were greeted by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, head of Papal Household, and other Vatican officials.

As he went down a receiving line shaking hands, Biden repeatedly said it was "good to be back." He last visited the Vatican in 2016 for a medical conference.

At one point, he introduced himself saying "I'm Jill's husband." And he could be overheard saying "I would have been elected much earlier," though it wasn't clear to what he was referring.

This is the standard Vatican protocol, before heading into the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis does not live in the Apostolic Palace, but he greets heads of states there because that's where the papal library is. That area is right on the square.

"When you see the Pope come for the Angelus on a Sunday to his window, those are the papal apartments. That's where President Biden will be going now," CNN reporter Delia Gallagher says.

6:24 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Why we won't see much of Biden and Pope Francis today

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak, Delia Gallagher and Hada Messia

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are greeted by the Head of the Papal Household, Mons. Leonardo Sapienza, center, as they arrive for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 29.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are greeted by the Head of the Papal Household, Mons. Leonardo Sapienza, center, as they arrive for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 29. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The public's view of Friday's highly-anticipated meeting with President Biden and Pope Francis at the Vatican will be more limited than previously anticipated.

The visit has been clouded by severe restrictions on press coverage -- independent journalists will not be allowed to see the two men meeting at all, and no live pictures of the Pope greeting Biden will be transmitted.

The Vatican said Thursday it canceled a planned live broadcast of the meeting, but will still distribute video of some parts of the arrival and greeting with the Pope following the meeting.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni gave no explanation for the last-minute change.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vatican has not admitted journalists to be present for the beginning of the Pope’s meetings with heads of state, a practice which has been common for years at the Vatican. Despite a formal letter of complaint from the Vatican press corps, the Vatican has yet to reinstate journalist pools at papal meetings. 

The Vatican has also canceled the planned live broadcast of the Pope’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, due to take place just before the meeting with President Biden.

White House Correspondents Association President Steven Portnoy said in a statement that the association "joins Vatican reporters in expressing our disappointment that the world won’t see live pictures of President Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis."

"The White House told us the bilateral meeting would involve Biden and Francis discussing substantive matters of global significance 'including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.' Such an international news event demands independent coverage," Portnoy said.

6:53 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Biden arrives at Vatican for meeting with Pope

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The Pope's gentlemen greet President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden as they arrive at San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican on October 29.
The Pope's gentlemen greet President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden as they arrive at San Damaso courtyard in the Vatican on October 29. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden has arrived at the Vatican for a highly symbolic meeting with Pope Francis. 

His motorcade arrived at St. Peter's Square just before noon local time (6 a.m. ET). 

Biden is the second Catholic US president, and his talks with Francis come with deep personal and political stakes.

The visit has been clouded by severe restrictions on press coverage. Independent journalists will not be allowed to see the two men meeting at all, and no live pictures of the Pope greeting Biden will be transmitted. 

5:54 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Biden will meet the Pope shortly

President Biden is scheduled to meet the Pope in a matter of minutes. The highly-anticipated meeting at the Vatican will be limited to public view.

The Vatican said Thursday it had canceled a planned live broadcast of the meeting but will still distribute video of some parts of the arrival and greeting with the Pope following the meeting.

Stay with us for updates on their meeting.

10:54 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

G20 leaders must address vaccine inequality, former world leaders say

From CNN's Robert Iddiols in London

A health worker prepares doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine onboard a pop-up vaccination bus in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 26.
A health worker prepares doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine onboard a pop-up vaccination bus in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 26. (Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

World leaders attending the G20 summit in Rome must address vaccine inequality, a group of former presidents, prime ministers and global figures said on Friday.  

The group has urged Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi -- who is hosting this weekend's summit -- to address the “catastrophic market and moral failure” of unfair coronavirus vaccine distribution. 

The letter, written by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and signed by 100 others highlighted gross disparities in vaccine equity, saying that only 5% of Africa is fully vaccinated.

“Similar problems exist in large parts of Asia and Latin America. In order to reach the 70% vaccination target the world has set – the vaccination levels of high-income countries – five billion more vaccines are needed including 1.6 billion additional vaccines in Africa," the letter said. 

Signatories to the letter included former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel prize winners and former leaders of Pakistan, Canada and the Netherlands.

The letter said that the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada will stock a surplus of 240 million unused doses by the end of October. With military assistance, “these could be airlifted immediately to countries most in need.” 

Signatories also called on the World Bank to make additional finance available to support vaccine rollouts in low-income countries.  

“Vaccine inequity constitutes a threat to us all,” they said. “Just as one cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire, so are we all not safe until everyone is safe.” 

5:55 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

This will be the fourth time President Biden and the Pope meet. Here's a look back at their relationship

By CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak

The Swiss Guards prepare for the arrival of President Joe Biden for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 29.
The Swiss Guards prepare for the arrival of President Joe Biden for a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on October 29. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Today's meeting will be the fourth between Biden and the Pope meet, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday, noting the two have also exchanged letters.

"They will have a chance just to reflect, each of them, on their view of what's happening in the world, policy issues," Sullivan said at a White House press briefing.

Biden and the Pope are expected to discuss climate change, migration and income inequality, among other issues, according to Sullivan.

The last time President Joe Biden visited the Vatican, he was still reeling from the loss of his son Beau to cancer a year earlier.

The reason for his 2016 visit was the Third International Regenerative Medicine Conference, and -- in a speech delivered with a massive bronze sculpture of the Resurrection as his backdrop -- Biden made an impassioned call for developing new cures for the disease that took his son's life.

But he also recalled a moment of kindness from his host, Pope Francis, who visited the United States in the months following Beau's death and gathered with Biden's extended family as he departed the states from the Philadelphia International Airport.

"We had just lost my son," Biden said at the start of his speech. "And he met with my extended family in the hangar behind where the aircraft was. And I wish every grieving parent, brother, sister, mother, father, would have the benefit of his words, his prayers, his presence. He provided us with more comfort that even he, I think, will understand."

Biden returns to the Vatican on Friday to meet a Pope who has provided both familial comfort and ideological inspiration to a President whose faith has long underpinned his public and private lives.

The visit is expected to touch on their personal relationship as Catholics and other key world issues, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. And their issues-related discussion is expected to address climate, migration and income inequality -- major areas of consensus among both men.

Read more about Biden's relationship with the Pope here.

5:25 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

The Vatican canceled a planned live broadcast of President Biden's meeting Pope Francis

From CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Hada Messia

The Vatican said Thursday it has canceled a planned live broadcast of President Biden meeting Pope Francis, due to take place Friday morning. 

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni gave no explanation for the last-minute change but told CNN that President Biden’s arrival in the Vatican courtyard, where he will be greeted by a Vatican monsignor, will be broadcast. The Vatican will distribute video of some parts of the arrival and greeting with the Pope following the meeting, according to Bruni.

The Vatican’s television coverage would normally also include the President and his entourage walking through the corridors of the Vatican, the President shaking hands with the Pope and sitting down at his desk for the beginning of the meeting. Coverage is usually provided at the end of the meeting for an exchange of gifts between the Pope and the President.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vatican has not admitted journalists to be present for the beginning of the Pope’s meetings with heads of state, a practice which has been common for years at the Vatican. Despite a formal letter of complaint from the Vatican press corps, the Vatican has yet to reinstate journalist pools at papal meetings.  

The Vatican has also cancelled the planned live broadcast of the Pope’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, due to take place just before the meeting with President Biden.

10:53 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

Pope urges world leaders to take "radical" steps to confront the climate crisis ahead of COP26

Pope Francis holds an episcopal ordination mass on October 17 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
Pope Francis holds an episcopal ordination mass on October 17 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has called on world leaders to seize the opportunity to more effectively tackle the global climate crisis at COP, urging them to give “concrete hope” to future generations that the threat is being taken seriously.

Speaking in a message broadcast on BBC Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" segment Friday, the leader of the Catholic Church said everyone must play "our own part in changing the collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change."

The Pope said that climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic have "exposed our deep vulnerability and raised numerous doubts and concerns about our economic systems and the way we organize our societies."

“These crises present us with the need to take radical decisions that are not always easy," he said, adding that difficult moments like these "present opportunities that we must not waste."

We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism and exploitation. Or we can see in them a real chance for change, a genuine moment of conversation," the Pope added.

While underlining a sense of urgency that global leaders must take, the Pope also struck a hopeful note, saying that "humanity has never before had at its disposal so many means" for achieving these goals.

Pope Francis will not be attending COP26 summit in Glasgow this weekend.

10:54 a.m. ET, October 29, 2021

National security adviser Sullivan says no date set for Biden meeting with China’s Xi

From CNN's Allie Malloy

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN’s Jeremy Diamond that there is still no date set for a virtual face-to-face meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping and wouldn’t comment on whether the White House believed it was a mistake for Xi not to attend the G20 Summit this week in Rome.

“The two presidents will have the opportunity to have a virtual meeting before the end of the year. I don’t have a date to announce today but they will be able to sit as close to face to face as technology allows to see one another and spend a significant amount of time going over the full agenda. President Xi has chosen not to attend these summits. He’s chosen not to leave China at all in calendar year 2021 to see any leader. That’s of course his choice,” Sullivan said Tuesday. 

Asked by CNN if it was a mistake for Xi not to attend, Sullivan said he wouldn’t characterize Xi’s decision making.

“All I can say is from the U.S. President’s prospective, President Biden does believe it’s important that he have the opportunity to have a face to face engagement with Xi Jinping and if it’s not possible in person because of Xi’s travel constraints, doing It by a virtual meeting is the next best thing. That’s what we’re intending to do.”

Sullivan added that “in an era of intense competition between the US and China, intense diplomacy, leader level diplomacy is vital to effectively managing this relationship.”