US President-elect Joe Biden spoke to foreign leaders, including Pope Francis, by phone on Thursday as he continues his preparations to take office in January.
Pope Francis offered his “blessings and congratulations”, seeking to rebuild rapport with Washington after four years of sometimes contentious relations with President Donald Trump.
The conversation was announced by the transition team for Biden, who will become only the second Roman Catholic president in US history when he enters the White House on Jan. 20.
“The president-elect thanked His Holiness for extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness’ leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world,” the transition team said in a statement.
Biden expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities,” it said.
Francis has clashed with Trump on a number of issues, including China, climate change, Cuba and immigration.
In February 2016, when the Republican Trump was still a candidate for the presidency, Francis criticized his promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying a man who wanted to build walls is “not Christian.”
After Trump was elected, Francis criticized the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord to limit global warming and his administration’s policy separating migrant families entering the United States.
Biden, who attends Mass on Sundays, will be the first American Catholic president since his fellow Democrat John F. Kennedy in the 1960s.
Biden also spoke with the leaders of Australia, Japan and South Korea, all key US allies in the region.
The president-elect told Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea that he wanted to deepen those ties.
Nations whose leaders had warm relationships with Trump have been slower to acknowledge Biden’s victory while the president still refuses to concede. The leaders of Russia, Brazil, Mexico, China and North Korea have yet to congratulate Biden.