By Courtney Mares
One day before U.S. President Joe Biden is due to meet with Pope Francis, the Vatican canceled its scheduled live broadcast of the meeting without explanation.
Journalists in the Vatican press corps — who will also not be allowed to have a pool representative present for the initial handshake due to current Vatican COVID-19 protocols — have protested at the last-minute cancelation.
The Associated Press reported on Oct. 28 that it had formally complained to the Vatican about the canceled live stream, along with members of the Vatican correspondents’ association.
Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said that the group declared its solidarity with Vatican reporters in “expressing our disappointment that the world won’t see live pictures of President Biden’s meeting with Pope Francis.”
“Reporters have been covering the papal audiences of American presidents since Woodrow Wilson sat w/Benedict [XV] in January 1919,” Portnoy, a CBS News Radio correspondent, wrote on Twitter.
“Our fully-vaccinated & masked pool of reporters is ready to continue this public service, mindful of its own safety as well as the leaders’, to ensure independent coverage of the first Catholic president in 60 yrs meeting with the head of the Catholic church,” he said
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki also addressed the Vatican’s media restrictions at a press briefing.
“What I can assure you of is that we are working, through every lever we have, to advocate for access for the press pool and for press when the president visits the Vatican,” Psaki said.
“We believe in the value of the free press. We believe in the value of ensuring you have access to the president’s trips and his visits overseas.”
Before the pandemic, Vatican protocol allowed for a small group of journalists, including the president’s own media pool, to be present for the first handshakes and the initial exchange as they sat down before the formal and private conversation. Journalists were again present to witness the exchange of gifts.
The Vatican has indicated that it will now only provide live footage of the arrival of the U.S. president’s motorcade at the Apostolic Palace, which some journalists will also be allowed to attend.
The meeting between Biden and Pope Francis is scheduled to start at noon on Oct. 29 and last for about an hour.
Biden has previously met Pope Francis on three occasions, but this will be his first face-to-face meeting with the pope as the 46th president of the United States and the country’s second Catholic president.
According to the White House, the president plans to discuss “ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.”