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As Pope makes G-7 debut, abortion vanishes from communique

Donato Paolo Mancini and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News on

Published in Religious News

Pope Francis landed in a white helicopter on Friday at the annual Group of Seven summit — the first ever pontiff to attend such an event.

Anticipation of the leader of the Catholic church had already infused an air of religiosity into a gathering that is typically concerned with geopolitics. Behind the scenes, Italy was ruffling feathers by pushing to dilute references on abortion and LGBTQ rights.

His formal role is to take part in discussions on regulating artificial intelligence, a topic he feels strongly about having already sounded the alarm on the risk of “technological dictactorship.” As if to underscore his warnings, an image of the pope in a white puffer coat went viral last year and was later revealed to be a deep fake.

The touch of the sacred has rubbed off on Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the unwed mother of a single child who has made upholding traditional values a key part of her brand. “I am a woman, I am Italian, I’m a Christian — you won’t take it away from me,” she once said.

To be sure, she’s also not afraid to lean on the profane. She frequently evokes her salt-of-the earth Roman upbringing, and has been caught on camera using vulgar slurs as terms of endearment. It’s an ability to span both worlds that’s part of the right-wing premier’s electoral appeal.

She’s courted the Pope’s favor in policy areas like her crusade to encourage Italians to have more children, undermining a theoretical firewall between church and state. She’s also been unapologetic about her mission to deny LGBTQ people equal rights in marriage and parenthood.

Pope Francis will get to spend time also with the devoutly Catholic U.S. President Joe Biden who speaks frequently of his warm relationship with the pontiff. Even before arriving in full regalia, his spirit was being felt in backroom negotiations over the communique.

This year the Italians, as hosts, have gone on the offensive to argue strenuously for references to abortion to be removed from the statement — something that’s normally a standard part of the wording, and was included in the text that came out of last year’s G-7, which Meloni herself attended.

In the end, a cosmetic workaround was reached. Under pressure from the Americans and others, the final communique will instead reiterate a commitment to last year’s version, according to the draft seen by Bloomberg and sources familiar with the negotiations — a reference to abortion in all but name.

The draft also appears to have diluted protections for LGBTQ people by removing mentions of gender identity and sexual orientation.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the communique would continue to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQIA+ people globally, specifically around the threats they face, with unchanged commitment.

 

On Thursday French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the tensions in the room, telling reporters he regretted that a reference to abortion disappeared from the text.

At home, Meloni has drawn the ire of groups in favor of reproductive rights for women by fanning the flames of anti-abortion rhetoric but stopped short of changing the law on the matter.

Unlike Meloni, which has shown to be profoundly mainstream in matters of foreign policy, Francis has flaunted a particular disregard for diplomatic protocol, going off-script on conflicts such as those in Ukraine and that between Israel and Hamas.

That makes his attendance at this summit potentially tricky. Even religious government aides in Rome describe as a loose cannon and prone to the more than occasional blunder. Ukrainian officials have been deeply critical of Pope Francis, who has sung the praises of Russian tzars and suggested Ukraine raise a white flag.

He was forced to apologize last month after allegedly saying “there was too much faggotry” among homosexual men wishing to become priests, highlighting the profoundly complex relationship the Church has with the LGBTQ community.

Yet earlier this week, he appeared unrepentant. He was reported as telling Roman priests “there was an air of faggotry” in the Vatican while condemning the power of “LGBT lobbies.” This time, the Vatican had a statement ready and it notably lacked an apology.

The pope’s reported uses of LGBTQ slurs did draw short shrift from the White House, which said after his first alleged use of the slur that “everyone, including LGBTQ+ persons, deserves dignity and should not be discriminated because of who they are, who they love.”

Will Biden chide Pope Francis in person? Politics has occasionally exposed rifts in their relationship, such as when he called Biden’s support for abortion rights an “incoherence.”

But ultimately, their shared faith has meant the two leaders have tended to back each other up and glide over their differences.

“This is a man who is of great empathy,” Biden said in 2021 of the Pope. “He is a man who understands that part of his Christianity is to reach out and to forgive. And so I just find my relationship with him one that I personally take great solace in. He is a really, truly genuine, decent man.”


©2024 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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