US vice-president drops in to Vatican for cancer event

Joe Biden, the second senior US Democrat to visit Vatican in the last two weeks, meets the pope

 Pope Francis   with US vice-president Joe Biden. Photograph: AFP Photo/Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis with US vice-president Joe Biden. Photograph: AFP Photo/Osservatore Romano

 

For the second time in this US election year, a senior Democratic figure, on Friday, dropped in on Pope Francis at the Vatican.  

Two weeks’ ago, it was Democratic Party presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, on Friday it was the turn of US vice-president Joe Biden, on his way home from a surprise visit to Iraq.

Mr Biden met Pope Francis at a Vatican-sponsored conference entitled  Cellular Horizons: How Science, Technology, Information and Communication will Impact Society.  

Cancer rather than the US elections were foremost on his agenda on Friday as he used the conference to promote his worldwide campaign for cancer research.

 In the evocative Vatican setting of the Paul Vith hall, both Mr Biden and the pope called for better global co-ordination, research and care in the treatment of cancer.

Last year, Mr Biden lost his eldest son, Beau, to brain cancer at a moment when his family had hoped desperately for a last-minute medical breakthrough. On Friday, he urged philanthropists, corporations and governments to increase funding and information-sharing to “end cancer as we know it”.   Not long after his son’s death, Mr Biden declared a “moonshot” to cure cancer while at the same time announcing he would not be running for president.  

Speaking to delegates on Friday, he said: “Cancer is a constant emergency. Cancer’s not a national problem, it’s an international problem. It’s a human problem. It affects all races, all religions.”

Mr Biden also spoke of how, during his visit to the US last September, Pope Francis had taken time to commiserate with him and his family following the death of his son.  

The pope spoke directly after Mr Biden, bemoaning a system that prioritises profits over human life and calling for equal access “for all” to medical care.   Among the delegates listening was U2 guitarist The Edge whose daughter has battled leukaemia.

Mr Biden also met Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, before moving across Rome to meet Italian prime minister  Matteo Renzi.