JOE BIDEN will become only the second Roman Catholic President of the United States. His election victory was finally called on Saturday after days of uncertainty and the continuing counting of hundreds of thousands of votes.
It was Pennsylvania, Mr Biden’s home state, that finally pushed him over the line to victory. John F. Kennedy was the last RC President, elected in 1961.
In his address to supporters on Saturday night, the President-Elect frequently spoke of his faith and, referring to Ecclesiastes, called for unity.
“To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans,” he said. “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”
He ended his address by quoting a hymn that, he said, meant a lot to him and his family, particularly his son, Beau, who died five years ago from brain cancer, aged 46.
Mr Biden said that he hoped the hymn — “On Eagle’s Wings”, which is often sung at the end of funeral masses — would bring comfort to the families of the 237,000 Americans who have died so far from Covid-19.
Americans celebrated Mr Biden’s victory with spontaneous outpourings and celebrations on the streets of many major cities. For many, it was the election of the first female Vice-President-Elect, Kamala Harris, which was a moment for joy. Ms Harris will also be the first black and first South-Asian American to hold the office. Brought up with both Hinduism and Christianity, she describes herself today as a Black Baptist.
On Sunday morning, less than a day after his win was confirmed when the state of Pennsylvania was called for him, Mr Biden went to mass with his family in Delaware.
The announcement of the election result was welcomed on Saturday by the Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Budde, and the Dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Very Revd Randy Hollerith. In a joint statement, they said: “We will begin anew the work of repairing the frayed fabric of our common life.”
The statement continued: “To President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, we offer our prayers for wisdom, grace and the certain knowledge of God’s presence in the difficult work ahead. To President Trump and Vice President Pence, we give our thanks for their service to our nation, and prayers for God’s guidance as they lay down the powers of their office.
“That we are a bruised and divided nation is not news. Yet only together can we meet the enormous challenges before us. All Americans, and particularly our leaders, must put the healing of the nation above partisan loyalties.”
They called for Americans to show “grace and compassion” to those who voted differently.
On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote on social media: “As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prepare to take office, may God grant them wisdom and courage to face the great challenges of leadership ahead. For all the American people, I pray for hope and a fresh vision of the common good.
“Please join me in praying too for Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and The Episcopal Church — may God bless and strengthen our brothers and sisters in sharing the hope and healing of Jesus Christ over the coming months and years.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 on Tuesday, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said: “I welcome the fact that Joe Biden has been elected, and the reason I welcome it is because [of] the ideas, particularly about being one world and one nation . . He seems to have a concern for the environment and I think he will help build community and unity.
“So, I welcome him. But I’m not a citizen of the United States — it’s not for me to say much more. But if I was a citizen of the United States, then I would be wanting to support policies that bring people together, not that drove them apart.”
Opinion polls suggest that, despite Mr Biden’s known church allegiance, the RC vote was split evenly between both candidates, and that Mr Biden attracted the support of 49 per cent of American RCs, and President Trump 50 per cent..
President Trump also retained the support of white Evangelicals, who voted for him in large numbers again. Exit polls suggest that three-quarters of all those identifying as white Evangelicals voted Republican, compared with 81 per cent four years ago. RC voters are concentrated in Rust Belt states (in the north-east, which have experienced industrial decline), such as Wisconsin and Michigan — both of which flipped their support from Trump to Biden this year.
VoteCast, a poll carried out for the the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago, broke down the vote along lines of religious affiliation: among white Catholics, 57 per cent for Trump and 42 per cent for Biden; among Hispanic Catholics, 67 per cent for Biden and 32 per cent for Trump. Among voters with no religious affiliation, Biden took 72 per cent while Trump took 26 per cent.
VoteCast also found several other religious voting blocs going overwhelmingly for Biden, including Muslim and Jewish voters.
As the votes in key states began to give Mr Biden the edge on Thursday, President Trump’s spiritual adviser, Paula White-Cain, led an online service praying for divine intervention to swing the race President Trump’s way.
She denounced the “demonic confederacies” working against him and called for “angels from Africa, from South America” to come to his aid.
On Monday morning, President Trump was still refusing to concede the election and has continued to incite protests with posts on Twitter alleging fraud, for which no evidence has been produced. A small number of states have yet to finish counts, including North Carolina and Georgia, but Mr Biden’s win in Pennsylvania has given him the electoral-college votes needed for the presidency.