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President Biden and first lady Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle with congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office, sent a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urging them to carefully deliberate before making a decision on whether Catholic public figures — like President Biden — should be denied Communion if they support abortion rights, AP reports.

The state of play: While the choice to deny Communion to individuals would be up to individual bishops, the issue has created a major division within the conference. Some members strongly support the measure, whereas others believe the move would be "politically polarizing," AP notes.

What they're saying: Any new policy "requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions," wrote Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, per AP.

  • The cardinal advised that the bishops should seek unanimous approval, adding that it could become "a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States."
    • A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the policy to take place.
  • He also said that bishops should consider discussing with bishops in other countries so as "to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church."
  • Ladaria added that any policy should not be limited to Catholic public figures and should instead include any churchgoing Catholics.

The big picture: Biden is the second Catholic to serve as president, following John F. Kennedy. He has openly supported abortion rights, with his administration reversing a Trump-era policy that banned federally funded health care providers from referring women for abortions.

What's next: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will vote on June 16 on the Communion measure.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September period in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.

5 hours ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.

Why it matters: The FBI drew on former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.