ROME — After a six-week diplomatic uproar over a scuttled submarine deal and accusations of American duplicity, President Biden made a one-on-one effort Friday to mend fences with President Emmanuel Macron of France by admitting that, yes, the matter could have been handled better.
“What we did was clumsy,” Mr. Biden told reporters hours after arriving in Italy to attend a summit with other world leaders. “It was not done with a lot of grace.”
By delivering an in-person mea culpa to the leader of one of America’s oldest allies, Mr. Biden signaled that he was ready to move on from an embarrassing spat that grew from a secretive American agreement with Britain and Australia to supply Australia with nuclear-powered attack subs, effectively canceling out a lucrative and strategically important French contract.
“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not coming through,” Mr. Biden said, effectively inviting his negotiating partners to shoulder some of the blame after weeks of weathering French ire. Later in the day, the two issued a joint statement that confirmed Mr. Biden’s support for America’s European allies to develop a “stronger and more capable European defense” as a compliment to NATO.
global agreement to set minimum levels of corporate taxation, aimed at stopping companies from stuffing income into tax havens. He will also prod other countries to assist in uncorking supply chain bottlenecks, announce a global task force to fight the coronavirus and urge investments to curb global warming.
But his trip began with a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, a diplomatic meeting that the president, who was grinning broadly as he emerged from his presidential limousine, seemed to enjoy.
After spending about 90 minutes with Francis in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Mr. Biden told reporters that the pope had called him a “good Catholic” who should keep receiving holy communion.
The apparent show of support would mark the first time the pope has explicitly pushed back against a campaign by conservative bishops in the United States to deny Mr. Biden, a fellow Roman Catholic, the sacrament because of his support for abortion rights. Asked if the two had spoken about abortion, the president said no, but that the topic of receiving the sacrament had come up.
“We just talked about the fact he was happy that I was a good Catholic,” Mr. Biden told reporters, “and I should keep receiving communion.”
have become common targets of powerful conservative American bishops seeking to undercut them.
Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University and author of “Joe Biden and Catholicism in the United States,” said there was “no question” that American bishops would be angered by the pope’s encouragement, and wondered whether the president had cleared his decision to speak publicly about it with the Vatican.
The heavily edited footage released by the Vatican appeared to underscore the warm bond shared by the two leaders. Mr. Biden clasped the pope’s hand and called him “the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”