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Biden: Pope Francis is ‘the embodiment of Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with’

In this Sept. 10, 2015, photo, Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a labor rally in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In an interview published Monday by the Catholic magazine "America," Vice President Biden called Pope Francis "the embodiment of Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with."

The half-hour exchange with America's editor-in-chief, Father Matt Malone, S.J. highlighted the unique role two Catholic politicians — Biden and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — will play during Francis' U.S. visit this week. Biden said the two often joke as they stand side-by-side during State of the Union addresses, though they have not talked "in terms of the Holy Father."

"John’s a good guy," Biden said in the interview, which took place Thursday in Washington. "You know, I think we’ll both be sitting there with a great deal of pride."

Biden has spoken in recent days about how elected officials in the United States should listen closely to the pope's message of inclusiveness; in the interview, he said it is rooted in the Catholic faith itself.

"That’s why he’s the single most popular figure in the world today," the vice president said. "He’s the embodiment of Catholic social doctrine that I was raised with. The idea that everyone’s entitled to dignity, that the poor should be given special preference, that you have an obligation to reach out and be inclusive."

"And I’m excited, quite frankly, as a practicing Catholic," Biden added. "I’m really excited that the whole world is getting to see what are the basic essential elements of what constitutes Catholicism."

While the administration has come under increased fire in recent months for its support of abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider,the vice president argued the idea of inclusiveness also applies to Democrats who oppose abortion. Asked if there is room in the party for pro-life Democrats, Biden replied, "Absolutely. Absolutely positively."

And while Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment has rankled some conservative Catholics in the U.S., Biden suggested he was simply calling on world leaders to deal with the obvious threat of climate change.

"The way I read it — and I read it — it was an invitation, almost a demand, that a dialogue begin internationally to deal with what is the single most consequential problem and issue facing humanity right now," Biden said.