The Vatican unexpectedly canceled its previously planned live broadcast of President Joe Biden’s visit with Pope Francis, “the latest restriction to media coverage of the Holy See” reports the Associated Press.
“The Vatican press office provided no explanation for why the live broadcast of Biden’s visit had been trimmed to cover just the arrival of the president’s motorcade in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where a Vatican monsignor will greet him” the AP added.
Among the canceled visitation was “any live coverage of Biden actually greeting Francis in the Palace Throne Room, as well as the live footage of the two men sitting down to begin their private talks in Francis’ library, at which time the cameras normally would have stopped running.”
The Vatican says it will provide edited footage to accredited media. This will be Biden’s first meeting with the Pope as president of the United States, but they have met three times previously. The AP reports “the audience was being closely monitored since U.S. bishops are due to meet in a few weeks for their annual fall convention, with one of the agenda items inspired by conservatives who contend that Biden’s support for abortion rights should disqualify him from receiving Communion.”
Pope Francis has vocally opposed abortion, calling it “murder.” But he has advised bishops to be pastors, not politicians. Any documents that come from the bishops’ discussions are “not expected to mention Biden by name” but “it’s possible there could be a clear message of rebuke.”
The Vatican has provided live television coverage for the visits of major heads of state for years and “live broadcasts are particularly important because the Vatican hasn’t allowed independent photographers and journalists into papal audiences since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Live access is traditional, and “It is during those moments in the pope’s library that reporters can view the gifts that are exchanged, watch as the formal photograph is taken and overhear remarks as the leaders arrive and depart to get a sense of how the pope and his guest have gotten along.” However, “Only the pope’s official photographer and Vatican video journalists are now allowed in.”
The AP reports that the Vatican correspondents’ association has protested the cancellation of such pool access and several media outlets, including The Associated Press. They have “formally complained about Thursday’s cut of the live Biden-pope broadcast and asked for an explanation.”
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration was “working through every lever we have” to get more access. Even Biden’s own pool of reporters who would normally be allowed into the pope’s library will no longer have access.
“We believe in the value of the free press. We believe in the value of ensuring you have access to the president’s trips and his visits overseas,” Psaki said during a White House briefing.
Noting that Biden was a guest and the Vatican the host, she added: “I can’t offer you a guarantee, but I can guarantee you we will continue to advocate.”
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