Joe Biden to Give Talk at Vatican Conference on Friday

Vice President Biden welcoming Pope Francis to the Senate, Sept. 2015.
Vice President Biden welcoming Pope Francis to the Senate, Sept. 2015. (photo: YouTube)

Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Rome on Thursday to attend a conference on breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, part-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Biden will deliver a talk the following day about the Obama administration's "Moonshot" initiative which aims to make therapies available to more patients and accelerate cancer research by improving cancer prevention and detecting it at an early stage.

The Vice President, whose son Beau died of brain cancer last year, is aiming to double the rate of progress toward a cancer cure, for which the Obama administration has asked Congress for $1 billion.

The April 28-30 conference, entitled “The Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact”, will bring together doctors, researchers, patients, philanthropists, business leaders, bioethicists, political and regulatory figures to discuss the “potential for adult stem cells and other ethical cellular therapies to treat cancer, diabetes and a broad spectrum of debilitating medical conditions and diseases,” the Vatican says.  

The Vatican, which is co-hosting the event with the Stem for Life Foundation, adds that the event’s focus will be on pediatric cancers and rare genetic diseases, as well as diseases that occur with aging.

“Conversations will examine how science, technology, information and communication impact society,” the Pontifical Council for Culture’s statement reads. “Throughout the conference, patients will share their own stories of the treatments that have helped address their disease and reduce suffering.”

Biden will speak on day two of the conference which will focus on cellular and technological breakthroughs in cancer. Other speakers at the event will include Cardinal Gianfrano Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Dr. Robin Smith, president of the Stem for Life Foundation, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the television news anchor, Katie Couric.

The Vice President will meet Pope Francis along with other participants of the conference during an audience on Friday. He has met Francis on several previous occasions, the last time being when the Holy Father addressed a joint session of Congress last September.

It’s not yet clear whether Francis will receive him privately. A baptized Catholic, Biden is the highest-ranking American Catholic public official ever to support legalized abortion. He also has other views contrary to Church teaching. 

When Benedict XVI met him privately at the Vatican in 2011, his visit was unannounced and the Vatican downplayed the encounter, saying it was a “totally private meeting”. It issued no communiqué nor published any images.

But such a meeting appears more likely after, earlier this month, the Pope briefly met in his Santa Martha residence Senator Bernie Sanders who is campaigning to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders, who is pro-abortion, was invited to the Vatican in the middle of his campaign to speak at a conference held by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

News of Biden's appearance at the Vatican comes after pro-life faculty members and students at the University of Notre Dame criticized the university’s decision to award him with the prestigious Laetare Medal this year.

Caravaggio, “The Incredulity of St. Thomas,” c. 1601

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