President Joe Biden cited Our Lady of Guadalupe and displayed his rosary beads in a conversation with the president of Mexico on Monday.
In the virtual conversation with Mexico’s President López Obrador, Biden—a Catholic—claimed a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe from his previous travels to Mexico as vice president.
“During my visits, I got to know Mexico a little bit and its people, and paid my respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe. As a matter of fact, I still have my rosary beads that my son was wearing when he passed,” Biden said according to a White House transcript of the event. He noted that he visited Mexico four times as vice president.
Biden has previously referenced his son Beau’s death from brain cancer as an incident where he relied upon his faith. In a 2020 campaign ad, he said that his faith supported him through tough times, noting that “I go to Mass and I say the rosary. I find it to be incredibly comforting.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe is patroness of the Americas, given the title by Pope St. John Paul II, and is also patroness of unborn children.
Biden is just the second Catholic U.S. president, and the U.S. bishops’ conference has noted the unique circumstance of having a Catholic president who upholds Church teaching on policies such as immigration and fighting poverty, but contradicts Church teaching on life issues, marriage, religious freedom, and gender ideology.
The USCCB formed a working group in November to advise the conference on how to deal with Biden; the working group made two chief recommendations before stopping its work in early February.
One of the recommendations was for USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez to send a letter to Biden that was pastoral in nature, but clarify areas of agreement and disagreement with the conference—especially his contradiction on the “preeminent” issue of abortion.
Biden has supported taxpayer-funded abortion and has pledged to sign the Equality Act, legislation the USCCB has warned would codify gender ideology in law and would “punish” objecting religious groups.
In a Jan. 20 statement for Biden’s inauguration, Archbishop Gomez offered prayers for the new president and emphasized his own role as bishop in forming consciences, rather than in being a partisan.
Biden, warned Gomez, “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. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
Abortion, said Gomez, “remains the ‘preeminent priority’” of the conference, as it “is a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family.”
Although Biden’s staff have referred to him as a “devout Catholic,” the USCCB’s pro-life chair has said they should stop using that term due to his support for abortion.
“The president should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching,” said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, in an interview with Catholic World Report published on Feb. 13.
Archbishop Naumann noted that “we bishops have the responsibility to correct him” for using the term. He added that Biden “is usurping the role of the bishops and confusing people” by calling himself a “devout Catholic” while opposing the Church’s teaching on life issues.
At the bilateral meeting on Monday, both presidents discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, and climate change.
During his conversation with Lopez, Biden also noted that he has a bust of Catholic social activist César Chávez in the Oval Office.
In response to Biden’s remarks on Monday, President Lopez thanked him through an interpreter “for your confession regarding your devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe.”
“We, as Mexicans, respect and admire two symbols,” he said, one being “the Virgin of Guadalupe” and the other being former president Benito Juárez.