By Kevin J. Jones
Pope Francis met with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in a private audience at the Casa Santa Marta papal residence on Wednesday. Clinton’s delegation included several prominent Americans, including Alex Soros of the Open Society Foundations.
Clinton, who now focuses his efforts on philanthropy and public affairs, had visited Albania July 3-4 and received from the Albanian prime minister a public gratitude medal for his support of Albania and for NATO’s intervention in the Kosovo War, the news site Euractivreports.
Soros, son of the billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, accompanied Clinton in both Albania and at the Vatican. Soros is the new chairman of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic giant which his father founded.
The pope presented Clinton with a statue of a woman holding a dove. The pontiff said it represents “a work for peace.”
Clinton gave Pope Francis “a little tray with the symbol of the United States on it,” according to a video posted to Twitter by Vatican News. Clinton’s office told CNA that the gift was a personalized porcelain tray bearing the presidential seal. The former president also wrote a personal note to the pontiff.
The Holy See Press Office in a July 5 email described the gathering as a “private audience” with President Bill Clinton and his delegation. It provided photos but no other information.
Clinton thanked Pope Francis for all he has done for the Church and the world, Clinton’s office told CNA.
After the meeting, Pope Francis greeted the delegation accompanying Clinton. The group included the president’s son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky and Clinton’s one-time Oxford roommate Strobe Talbot, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. The current U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Joe Donnelly, was not present, Clinton’s office said.
CNA sought comment from the Open Society Foundations but did not receive a response by publication.
As CNA previously reported, Open Society Foundations and its aligned groups have funded efforts to legalize abortion in Ireland, Poland, Mexico and other traditionally Catholic countries. The Soros network has also funded efforts to change the political priorities of American Catholics and to pass strongly pro-abortion legislation, such as a Michigan ballot measure to declare abortion a constitutional right.
The foundations’ founder George Soros, who has described himself as a foe of “totalizing, extremist ideologies,” has claimed success in undermining South African apartheid and in liberalizing his home country of Hungary and the Soviet Union itself. The Open Society Foundations give more than $1.5 billion a year to human rights and democracy advocates, among other causes in the U.S. and around the world.
Alex Soros, 37, told the Wall Street Journal last month he is “more political” than his father and he plans to have a larger focus on U.S. domestic politics. Voting rights and abortion rights are among his causes. Soros also heads an Open Society Foundations-aligned political action committee called Democracy PAC, which has about $125 million to spend on domestic U.S. politics.
However, the Open Society Foundations on June 30 announced it will lay off 40% of its approximately 800 employees around the world as part of major changes to its operating model, CNN reports.