CHRISTIANSTED, V.I. — President Biden praised former Pope Benedict XVI for his “generosity” on Saturday, joining other American Catholics in mourning the former pontiff.
Mr. Biden is the second Catholic president, along with John F. Kennedy, but has had a rocky relationship with the church’s conservative wing, largely over the president’s support for abortion rights. He visited the Vatican in 2021 while attending a summit in Rome and had an extended audience with Pope Francis.
On Saturday, during a vacation in St. Croix, Mr. Biden had no public appearances but issued a statement honoring the former pope.
“Jill and I join Catholics around the world, and so many others, in mourning the passing of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,” he said, adding, “He will be remembered as a renowned theologian, with a lifetime of devotion to the church, guided by his principles and faith.”
Mr. Biden remembered Benedict’s comments during a 2008 visit to the United States and White House, where the pope noted that the “need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity.”
“May his focus on the ministry of charity continue to be an inspiration to us all,” Biden said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat of California who is also Catholic, released a statement Saturday that expressed her admiration of Benedict’s spirituality and recalled welcoming the pope to Washington in 2008 and visiting him at the Vatican the next year.
“Paul and I join our fellow Catholics in mourning the passing of Pope Benedict XVI: a global leader whose devotion, scholarship and hopeful message stirred the hearts of people of all faiths,” she wrote in the statement, referring to her husband.
Some conservative American Catholic bishops and priests have called for Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi to be denied communion when they attend Mass because of their stance on abortion and rights for L.G.B.T.Q. people. But neither Benedict nor his successor, Pope Francis, has endorsed such a punitive move.
Ms. Pelosi previously told The Times that she has a folder in her office with photos and news clips memorializing her encounters with popes, dating back to a visit to Rome with her family in the 1950s to visit Pope Pius XII, a sign of her commitment to her faith and reverence for the papacy. Her father, Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr., a former mayor of Baltimore and member of the House, was also prominent in the American Catholic community.
However, Ms. Pelosi has publicly disagreed with the church’s stance on abortion, which along with family planning access and women’s rights is a core value for her party.
“The church has their position, and we have ours, which is that a woman has free will given to her by God. My family is very pro-life,” she told The Times in 2015.