VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - Pope Francis told US President Joe Biden on Wednesday (Jan 20) that he was praying that God would guide his efforts to bring reconciliation in the United States, while the nation's bishops condemned Biden's pro-choice stand on abortion.
In a message sent shortly after the second Catholic US president was sworn in, Pope Francis also said he hoped Mr Biden would work towards a society marked by true justice, freedom and respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those with no voice.
"Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding," Francis said.
"I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good," he said.
Three days after the Jan 6 attack on the US Congress by supporters of former president Donald Trump, Pope Francis said the violence had left him "astonished".
In Wednesday's message to Mr Biden, the pope said the "grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses".
In a statement released at the same time, the president of the US Catholic Bishops Conference, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, pledged that the bishops will continue to fight Mr Biden over his position on several moral issues, mainly abortion.
Mr Biden, like many other Catholic politicians, has said he is personally against abortion but cannot impose his position on others.
Archbishop Gomez praised Mr Biden for what he called the new president's "moving witness" on how his faith brought him solace in times of tragedy and his commitment to the poor but said bishops had to proclaim all the truth of the Gospel.
"So, I must point out that our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender," he said.
Many Catholic conservatives supported Mr Trump. Pope Francis had a rocky relationship with Mr Trump, disagreeing with him on a series of issues including immigration and climate change.