VATICAN CITY — U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, a pro-abortion rights Roman Catholic, met with Pope Benedict XVI in an unannounced visit at the Vatican on Friday.
Vatican officials said the meeting was strictly private and U.S. officials declined to give details.
Biden, who was in Rome to mark Italy's 150th anniversary as a unified nation, is an observant Catholic who nevertheless supports abortion rights. Benedict has long insisted that Catholic politicians follow church teaching on such "nonnegotiable" issues as abortion, which the Vatican strongly opposes.
Some U.S. bishops have said priests should refuse to give Communion to politicians who support abortion.
The Vatican did not release a photo of Biden and the pope. The media only learned of the meeting when journalists at the Vatican to cover Benedict's meeting with the Palestinian president spotted Biden's car in the Vatican courtyard.
When the then speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic and prominent abortion rights politician, met with Benedict in 2009, he told her that Catholic politicians had a duty to protect life "at all stages of its development."
The Vatican's handling of that meeting recalled its treatment of Geraldine Ferraro, a Catholic who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984. She opposed abortion, but also opposed outlawing it.
Her 1985 meeting with Pope John Paul II was never officially announced and no photo was released.
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