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Pelosi receives Communion at Vatican after earlier U.S. bishop refusal

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Pelosi receives Communion at Vatican after earlier U.S. bishop refusal

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ROME — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic and a vocal supporter of abortion rights, was at St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday, according to a person who attended the mass. received Holy Communion at Pope Mass.

The Vatican ceremony contrasted with conservative San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cody Leone’s decision to instruct priests in his diocese to reject the Eucharist because of Pelosi’s stance on abortion.

In September, Pope Francis said, “I have never rejected anyone’s Eucharist,” although he later added that he never knowingly encountered pro-choice politicians during the Eucharist, and reiterated the Church’s position that abortion is “murder”. But Francis has said the decision to hand out communion to politicians who support abortion rights should be made from a pastoral, not political, perspective.

Pelosi challenges archbishop’s denial of communion over abortion rights

Pelosi’s communion came shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that eliminated abortion rights. In a statement about the decision, the Vatican Pontifical Academy for Life called for a “non-ideological” debate: “In the face of a Western society that is losing its zest for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect on seriousness together. And the pressing question. The question of human reproductive capacity and the conditions that make it possible,” said Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, dean of the academy.

It wasn’t Francis, 85, who handed the Holy Bread to Pelosi himself at Mass at the Vatican on Wednesday, as his active participation is increasingly limited by knee ailments that often require him to use a wheelchair. Before Mass, Pelosi greeted the pope and was blessed, according to one attendee.

The Vatican made no statement on the matter and declined to comment. But in a city-state steeped in religious symbolism and the center of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, Pelosi’s communion can hardly be dismissed as an oversight. This happened on the day Francis published an apostolic letter glorifying the virtues of the Mass, reminding his church how this celebration belongs to “the whole body of believers united in Christ.”

“Etiquette does not say ‘I,’ but ‘us,'” Francis wrote in the letter. “Any limitation on the breadth of this ‘us’ is always evil.”

In October, Francis met Pelosi at a private audience at the Vatican in what the speaker later described as “a spiritual, personal and official honor.” It remains to be seen whether the communion given to Pelosi will have any impact on Cordileone’s decision, which is shared by at least four other U.S. dioceses. Cordileone’s order to reject Pelosi only applies to churches in Pelosi’s parish.

Pelosi overturned Cody Leon’s order, questioning whether he used a double standard in allowing politicians who support the death penalty — against which the Catholic Church opposes — to receive communion.

What happened Wednesday reinforced the impression that there are two methods of abortion within the Catholic Church, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, said Massimo Fagioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University. The problem becomes more subtle.

It’s unclear if the Vatican explicitly intends for Pelosi to receive the Eucharist, but Vatican authorities will certainly know of her presence and plan to attend Mass at St. Peter’s Church, Facioli said.

“It’s not surprising. Of course, there are things the Vatican can and should not say on these issues,” he said. “The fact that it wasn’t the Pope who gave her communion leaves the Vatican with a little bit of denial. It’s not in their best interest to blatantly accuse Cordileone of the eyes.

But the overturning of Roe v. Wade will make it harder for the Vatican to vigorously defend Pelosi, President Biden and other Catholics who support abortion rights.

“As long as Roe v. Wade is the law, people can say: These people are Catholics, but they still have to obey the law,” Faggioli said.

But Facioli doesn’t believe Francis, who has called for more inclusiveness in the church, will allow himself to be drawn into a corner.

Abortion has become one of the denominational parameters that American Catholic conservatives use to decide whether you are Catholic, Faggioli said. The idea, he said, “doesn’t belong to Pope Francis, who never changed the church’s teaching about abortion, but always insisted that the church was not a country club.”

“It’s one of the keys to his presidency. It’s one of the things he doesn’t agree with with the American bishops,” Fagioli said.


A previous version of the article said that the mass Pelosi attended was on Friday. It happened on Wednesday.

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