Bill O'Reilly briefly shook hands with Pope Francis during the Vatican's weekly meeting with the public, The New York Times reported Wednesday. O'Reilly has been vacationing in Italy for the past week, avoiding the spotlight of numerous claims of sexual harassment against the Fox News anchor.
O'Reilly stood in line to meet the Pope in a special VIP section Wednesday morning, as a photograph from L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper, shows.
Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox made the decision to part ways with O'Reilly on Wednesday. "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel," a statement read.
The Pope's weekly audiences are open to the public, with tens of thousands of people filling St. Peter's Square to get a glimpse of the Bishop of Rome. The Vatican said last week that no official meeting with O'Reilly would occur, but celebrities and public figures often circumvent official meetings and use their connections to secure tickets to the VIP section during the weekly audience for a quick photo opportunity.
It is unclear if Pope Francis is aware of who Bill O'Reilly is, and the brief handshake does not signify any support for his politics or position. O'Reilly has not in the past been a big fan of the pontiff.
In February 2016, Pope Francis said that a man who builds walls instead of bridges is "not Christian." And without mentioning Donald Trump by name, he later said, "A Christian can never say, 'I'll make you pay for that.'"
O'Reilly, in defense of Trump, spoke out against the Pope's statements and called for a meeting with the leader of the Catholic Church. "I think I could persuade the Pope that providing protection and enforcing settled law is certainly not un-Christian," he said at the time.
O'Reilly also criticized the Pope for being "left-wing" and called his warnings against climate change's impact on the planet an "opinion."
Pope Francis, whose teachings are dominated by the theme of mercy, circled the square in his Popemobile, speaking of how happiness and joy can grow where there is "sadness, defeat and shadow," before blessing the gathered crowd.
Here is Bill O'Reilly literally meeting with Pope Francis this morning pic.twitter.com/SlNMqAnsKn
- Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) April 19, 2017
April 19, 12:00 p.m. Updated with 21st Century Fox statement.