During a brief visit to India, US President Joe Biden revealed his humble and devout nature, as noted by Father Nicholas Dias during a private Mass.
Biden’s visit coincided with the recently-concluded G20 Summit held in New Delhi from September 9-10.
“I appreciated his gesture of seeking to pray and attend Holy Mass before the start of the Summit,” said Father Dias, who serves as the secretary for the liturgy commission of the Delhi Archdiocese.
This practice by the US President before significant endeavors mirrors Jesus, who often retreated to pray in the mountains before making important decisions, according to the priest.
Father Dias shared that Biden expressed the desire to be prayed for, enlightened by the Word, and nourished by the Eucharist, drawing inspiration from his Catholic upbringing, which was enriched by his grandmother and the Norbertine school he attended.
He also expressed his admiration for Pope Francis and his dedication to following the Pope’s teachings.
On September 9, Father Dias arrived at the ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi, where President Biden was staying, with a limited window of 20 minutes for the encounter.
Therefore, he conducted a Holy Communion service, focusing on the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist within the allocated time.
During the service, President Biden led the prayers of the faithful, which encompassed five intentions – India, President Biden, America, the success of the summit, and the global issues to be discussed.
The Mass was attended by a select few, including Biden’s personal doctor, secretary, and other Catholic staff.
Father Dias acknowledged President Biden’s personal faith, noting that despite questions about his stance on pro-life issues, his bishop had not imposed any restrictions.
He emphasized that Biden’s faith and his role as the nation’s leader often posed challenges and complexities.
In their brief meeting, Father Dias shared insights about the spread of Christianity in India and discussed St. Francis Xavier, a significant influence on his vocation.
He also mentioned the upcoming decennial exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier in Old Goa scheduled for the next year.
Father Dias, with 27 years of priesthood, was deeply impressed by President Biden’s simplicity and humility, never feeling that he was ministering to the most powerful man in the world.
President Biden expressed gratitude multiple times, saying, “Father, I am obliged that you made time for me.”
Following the service, President Biden honored Father Dias with a special souvenir – the President’s Seal No 261.
He placed it in Father Dias’s right palm and explained that this is how they honor it.
Later, embassy officials informed Father Dias that this medal had only been given to 260 people, underscoring its significance.
As a gesture of appreciation for his cultural heritage, Father Dias presented President Biden with Bebinca, a Goan-Portuguese delicacy, given the historical Portuguese influence in Goa.
Reflecting on this remarkable opportunity, Father Dias shared that it came about through his association with youth from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, some of whom worked at the US Embassy.
They facilitated contact between Father Dias and consulate officials who informed him of President Biden’s desire to attend a short Holy Mass at his hotel on the morning of September 9.
Despite the fleeting celebrity status, Father Dias cherished the opportunity to share faith and fellowship with a devout Catholic and the President of the United States.