What Joe Biden Gifted Pope Francis During Visit to the Vatican

Dignitaries that meet with the Pope are typically given a blessing and a small gift, but President Joe Biden was the one who had a sentimental present for Pope Francis during their meeting at the Vatican on Friday.

According to the White House, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden gave Francis a historic chasuble—a garment traditionally worn by clergy during communion—in a custom marble and wood frame. The handwoven garment was a part of the archival collection of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. and historically used by Jesuits. Francis is a Jesuit.

Holy Trinity is the church that Biden regularly attends while in Washington.

The robe's frame was crafted by local artisans from naturally-fallen wood from the White House grounds and white marble reclaimed from the original pulpit of Holy Trinity, according to a White House official.

The White House also plans to make a donation of winter clothing to charities in the name of the pontiff to commemorate World Day of the Poor on November 14, the official said.

Biden and Francis have long had a friendly relationship, notably teaming up on cancer research while Biden was vice president.

During Friday's meeting, Biden also gave the Pope a meaningful challenge coin, which is a tradition that started in the military. The large gold coin was inscribed with the insignia of the 261st Signal Brigade unit of the Delaware Army National Guard. The president's late son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, served as a captain in the unit.

"With your permission, I'd like to be able to give you a coin," Biden said. "It has a U.S. seal on the front, but what's different with this coin—I know my son would want me to give this to you because on the back of it, I have the state of Delaware and the 261st unit my son served on."

During a visit to the United States just months after Beau's death, Francis asked to meet with Biden's extended family.

"He provided us with more comfort than even he, I think, will understand," Biden said of the meeting during a speech at a cancer research conference the following year.

Biden's meeting with Francis on Friday lasted for about 90 minutes.

The President later told reporters that the pontiff blessed his rosary and each said a prayer for the other.

The two discussed a range of topics, including the climate crisis and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Biden said they didn't discuss abortion—a topic where they differ. Biden supports abortion rights, while Francis has condemned abortion as "homicide."

Biden has faced backlash from conservative Catholics in the United States who have argued that he shouldn't receive communion, but Biden said Francis told him he should continue receiving communion on Friday.

"We just talked about the fact that he was happy I was a good Catholic," Biden told reporters.

President Joe Biden meets with Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Joe Biden during an audience at the Apostolic Palace on October 29, 2021 in Vatican City. Biden met with Pope Francis for talks on climate change and COVID-19 amid a debate whether President Biden should receive communion after his support for abortion rights. Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images