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Biden invokes memory of late son Beau with gift of military coin to Pope Francis

Joe Biden gave Pope Francis a 90-year-old fiddleback chasuble. (Alexandre Tziripouloff/Dreamstime/TNS)
November 01, 2021

President Joe Biden gave Pope Francis a coin in memory of his deceased son Beau and a handwoven garment from a historic Washington church during his first visit to the Vatican since taking office.

Biden, the second Roman Catholic American president, said the coin was inscribed with his home state of Delaware and the 261st Signal Brigade that his son Beau Biden served in.

Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, and the U.S. president has described how his faith served him as he mourned his son’s passing. Presidents often gift the challenge coins to military service members they encounter.

“You are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met,” Biden said to the pope on Friday, according to video of the meeting distributed by the Vatican.

Biden told the pope about the military tradition surrounding challenge coins and said if he didn’t have the coin the next time they meet, “you have to buy the drinks.”

The pope laughed and replied back: “Whiskey!” Biden, a teetotaler, said he was only joking and that he was “the only Irishman you’ve ever met that’s never had a drink.”

The pope touched his heart after receiving the coin and thanked the U.S. president for the gift.

Biden also presented Francis with a 90-year old fiddleback chasuble — the vestment worn by Catholic priests at mass — that was part of the archival collection of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington. The garment was framed in wood from grounds of the White House and white marble from the original pulpit of the church.

Holy Trinity is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Washington. Known for its civil rights and anti-slavery advocacy, the Georgetown church was visited by presidents including Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy.

The White House said that a donation of winter clothing would also be made by the White House in the name of Pope Francis to commemorate the World Day of the Poor on Nov. 11.

Francis gave Biden with a carved tile featuring St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as a collection of his writings. Biden said he planned to add the gift to his library.

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