Watch: Joe Biden Awkwardly Tells Pope to 'Buy the Drinks' During Next Visit After Giving Him Bizarre Gift


On Friday, the world’s most powerful Catholic and the world’s second-most powerful Catholic met in Vatican City.

Which ranks first is a matter of opinion. Most would go with Pope Francis, whom Roman Catholics see as the Vicar of Christ and can, on exceedingly rare occasions, issue statements of faith deemed to be infallible through the ex cathedra authority of the office. On the other hand, U.S. President Joe Biden is the one with the nukes.

After Friday, however, there was no debate over which profoundly powerful Catholic was the more lucid man. Put quite simply, even though Pope Francis can be an insufferable peacenik, I can still think of a few errant hawkish GOPers who might want to hand him the nuclear football after watching the weird exchange between the two.

Biden, who was in Rome for the G-20 summit, met with the pope amid a rift in the U.S. Catholic Church over whether the president should continue to receive Communion due to his support of abortion rights — including his statement that he no longer believes life begins at conception.

“We just talked about the fact that he was happy I’m a good Catholic,” Biden said after the meeting, according to Fox News. “And I should keep receiving Communion.”

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The Vatican wouldn’t confirm this: “It’s a private conversation,” said Matteo Bruni, Vatican spokesman, according to The New York Times.

However, the public moment of awkwardness came after the president gave the pope what’s known as a “challenge coin.”

“I’m not sure this is appropriate, but there is a tradition in America that the president, that he gives to warriors and leaders,” Biden said.

“You are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met, and I’d like to be able to give you a coin.”

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Biden noted challenge coins have the U.S. seal on the front, “but what’s different with this coin, usually — I know my son would want me to give this to you because on the back of it I have the state of Delaware and the 261st unit my son served on,” he said, referring to his late son Beau.

This is all nice, if a trifle odd and underwhelming, given the nature of the dignitary. Granted, the connection to Beau is a sweet touch, but it feels a bit like when he bought Vice President Kamala Harris flowers and a framed picture for her birthday. What, was the Secret Service not able to vet Edible Arrangements in time?

But that’s when things got strange: “Now the tradition is — and I’m only kidding about this — the next time I see you, if you don’t have it, you have to buy the drinks,” Biden said.

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Not that there would be cocktails to be had.

“I’m the only Irishman you’ve ever met who’s never had a drink,” Biden said.

“Irish people love whiskey,” the pope responded through his translator.

“I know that!” Biden said.

Challenge coin gifted. Great success. But was this the only awkward moment in the exchange? Is the pope Protestant?

Here’s Biden telling a story about baseball great Satchel Paige, who didn’t pitch in the majors until late in his career due to the color line in baseball.

“Usually, pitchers lose their arm when they’re 35. He pitched a win on his 47th birthday. The press walked into the locker room and said — his name was Satchel Paige — they came in and said, ‘Satch, no one’s ever pitched a win at age 47. How do you feel about pitching a win on your birthday?’ He looked at them and said, ‘Boys, that’s not how I look at age. I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’”

“You’re 65 I’m 60!” Biden says to Francis with a laugh.

Right. And I’m Ross Perot.

I’m waiting for the clip to emerge where Pope Francis was caught on a hot mic telling an aide in Italian, “What a relief. Nobody’s going to take this dupe’s prattling about abortion and when life begins seriously, right? Just make sure the poor sap gets his Communion.”

As of yet, the media hasn’t unearthed it, but this writer remains hopeful.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture