With a rosary around his wrist, Joe Biden often talks about how faith has helped him overcome the tragedies in his life.
And on November 3, the Democratic candidate for the White House hopes to convince Catholic voters, like him, who in 2016 voted in majority for Donald Trump.
Almost every week, the former US Vice President attends mass at the small church of St. Joseph on the Brandywine, in the upscale suburb of his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
It is there, in the vast green cemetery, that are buried his parents, his son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015, as well as his first wife, Neilia, and his daughter Naomi, lost in a car accident in 1972. .
Sunday morning, under the rare trees with scorched leaves, he went once again with his wife Jill to visit the grave of Beau, former Attorney General of Delaware, decorated with small American flags.
The ex-right arm of Barack Obama had confided in 2017 that he never left the rosary that his son wore on the day of his death.
His religion, Joe Biden, educated in a Catholic school, has always lived it openly. And if he wins the ballot, he will become only the second President of the United States of the Catholic faith, after John F. Kennedy.
Quoting Pope John Paul II and the Scriptures, hammering out his origins as an Irish Catholic, the 77-year-old Democrat is in any case determined not to leave the ground of religion to the Republicans.
Support for the right to abortion
The stakes are high: Donald Trump won in 2016 against Hillary Clinton thanks to victories on the razor’s edge in several key states.
Each vote will therefore count in two weeks. And Catholic voters offer one of the rare opportunities to convince “pivot” voters, those “swing voters” who switch from one party to another depending on the election.
In 2016, they voted 52% for Donald Trump against 45% for Hillary Clinton, according to the Pew Research Institute.
But this large group, which represents about one-fifth of Americans, is far from homogeneous: six in ten white Catholic voters voted for the Republican, compared to nearly seven in ten Hispanic Catholics for the Democrat. Prominent members of the Trump administration are Catholics.
It is “a crucial group of voters for our candidacy,” admits to AFP Josh Dickson, head of religion in the Democratic team.
The abortion issue could put Joe Biden in trouble, however, even in his Democratic state of Delaware.
Joe Biden supports the Supreme Court ruling “Roe v. Wade ”who recognized in 1973 the right to abortion in the United States. If he is elected, he has promised to perpetuate it by pushing Congress to enshrine it in law.
“Whether Joe Biden is Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, atheist, I don’t care,” John Dolan told AFP, leaving Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church.
This smiling 50-year-old engineer does not yet know who he will vote for. “But you know, as a Catholic, it’s hard for me to support someone who” defends the right to abortion.
Taking advantage of the autumn sun on the banks of the Christina River in Wilmington, Rudy Antonini Jr. 71, already knows he will vote for Donald Trump.
“I have nothing against Joe Biden, he’s a good person,” launches this American of Italian origin. But he is “for abortion (…) He is Catholic, it is contradictory”.
His positions have earned Joe Biden to be refused, once, communion in an American church in 2019. He then recalled that “the Holy Father” had administered it to him.
“Obvious moral choice”
Asked about this possible handicap, Josh Dickson underlines that American Catholics “are very diverse in their points of view, origins” and take into account “many questions” when it comes time to vote.
For him, Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris “are the obvious moral choice in this election” against the Trump administration.
Former Democratic parliamentarian and American University expert, Capri Cafaro shares this analysis. And “Catholics can identify with Joe Biden’s heartfelt struggle” between his beliefs and politics, she adds.
“I’m going to vote for Biden,” explains Alexandra Johnson, 41, while waiting outside Bernie’s, which sells “water ice” in the Little Italy neighborhood of Wilmington, Italian granita specialty of the area.
“It has nothing to do with her religion,” explains this manager in real estate, mother of four children.
“I think it will give my children a better future, that’s all”.