By Inés San Martín
ROME — Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi took Communion during a Mass presided over by Pope Francis on Wednesday.
In May, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Pelosi’s home diocese, barred her from receiving communion in the archdiocese over her outspoken support of abortion rights.
Pelosi, who is currently in Rome as part of a family vacation, attended the liturgy for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica, and according to sources who were present at the time, received the Eucharist.
She did not receive it from the pope himself, but from one of the priests at the basilica, whose nationality remains unknown. It is also unclear if the priest knew who she was.
Cordileone announced his decision to bar her from receiving Communion with a letter to the faithful May 20: “After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a declaration that she is not 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 in the sacrament of penance.”
The California Democrat pushed back at the time, saying that she comes from a large family with many members who oppose abortion.
“I respect people’s views about that. But I don’t respect us foisting it onto others.” Pelosi said. “Our archbishop has been vehemently against LGBTQ rights. In fact, he led the way in an initiative on the ballot in California.”
Pelosi also said that women and families need to know this is about more than abortion: “These same people are against contraception, family planning, in vitro fertilization. It’s a blanket thing and they use abortion as the front man for it.”
Pope Francis referred to the question of pro-abortion politicians and Communion in 2021, on his return to Rome from Slovakia.
At the time, Francis said that the Eucharist is for those who are “in the community” and politicians who support abortion are “outside of the community.”
However, he also said that in these cases, it’s a pastoral matter that must be addressed by the individual’s pastor.
Pope Francis began his response by saying that he’s never denied Communion to anyone, but also that, “I don’t know if any came in this condition. But I was never conscious of having in front of me a person like the one you describe.”
When Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, all Argentinian Catholic politicians were openly pro-life, with the push to legalize abortion in the country gaining steam in the years after he became pope.
Last year, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, wrote the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, warning them that a national policy against giving Communion to pro-choice politicians could become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”
During his homily Wednesday, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church has to be a place where “everyone can feel welcomed and accompanied, one where listening, dialogue and participation are cultivated under the sole authority of the Holy Spirit.”
But he also urged the bishops and those present not “to retreat into our ecclesial circles and remain pinned to some of our fruitless debates. Together we can and must continue to care for human life, the protection of creation, the dignity of work, the families, the elderly, all those abandoned or rejected.”