Nancy Pelosi takes communion at Vatican

Philip PullellaReuters
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looks at Pope Francis as he celebrates a Mass at St. Peter's.
Camera IconSpeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looks at Pope Francis as he celebrates a Mass at St. Peter's. Credit: AP

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives who is banned from receiving communion in her home city of San Francisco because she supports abortion rights, has taken the sacrament at a Mass said by Pope Francis.

A witness said the speaker, who is Catholic and visiting Rome, took communion from a priest in a section of St. Peter's Basilica during a papal Mass on the feast of St. Peter and Paul.

The Pope does not give communion himself at such ceremonies.

Although Pelosi is barred from receiving it in San Francisco by the city's conservative archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, she regularly takes communion at a parish in Washington, D.C., where the archbishop of the US capital allows it.

Francis has no control over who receives communion during papal Masses and it was not clear if he was aware that Pelosi was in the church.

Anyone who wishes to take the sacrament merely approaches one of the dozens of priests who fan out through the huge basilica.

Last month, Cordileone issued an order against Pelosi taking communion in his archdiocese.

The order said "she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion 'rights' and confesses and receives absolution for her cooperation in this evil".

Pelosi has described as cruel, outrageous and heart-wrenching last week's US Supreme Court ruling overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognised a woman's constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

Ironically, the Mass was also attended by Newt Gingrich, the Republican former US House speaker who is one of Pelosi's political adversaries and has welcomed Friday's Supreme Court decision.

Both Pelosi and Gingrich attended an Independence Day reception at the residence of the US ambassador to the Vatican on Tuesday evening, Joe Donnelly. Gingrich's wife Callista is a former US ambassador.

Last October, US President Joe Biden, who is also Catholic, received communion while attending Mass in the American church of Rome, a day after he met Pope Francis. Biden said later that the pontiff had told him he is a "good Catholic" who can receive the sacrament.

Biden, the second Catholic US president after John F. Kennedy, has said he personally opposes abortion but, as an elected official, cannot impose his views on others.

Francis has frowned on US bishops politicising communion.

"Communion is not a prize for the perfect," the Pope told reporters last year when asked to comment on the US debate about abortion and Catholic politicians. "Communion is a gift, the presence of Jesus and his Church."

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