As world leaders flock to Rome for the G20 summit, President Joe Biden kicks off a trip aimed at reasserting US international credentials, starting at a meeting Friday with Catholic ally Pope Francis.
The president left Washington with a spring in his step after unveiling a “historic” framework for a vast social spending plan — although it remains to be seen if it can win the support of lawmakers. After weeks of internal party feuding, and with his personal ratings slumping, Biden wants to use the twin summits in Europe this week — the G20 and UN climate talks in Glasgow — to prove his political clout.
He sees himself as the spokesman for democracy in the face of authoritarian regimes, notably China. But he opens the trip on a more intimate note, having landed early Friday in Rome, he will head first to the Vatican, for what is expected to be a largely good-humoured sit-down with Pope Francis.
Only the second ever Catholic president, Biden is open about his faith and almost never misses Sunday mass. He has met the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics three times already, but this will be their first since the 78-year old was elected president.