Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Biden was offered a hug after the meeting with the Pope
Joe Biden is taking no chances after his decision to run for president next year – and has apologised after embarrassing an audience with Pope Francis.
He was introduced to the pontiff by Pope Francis’ secretary but made a joke rather than shake his hand.
In video footage posted on a CBS news website, Mr Biden is then seen bending down to put his hand out to shake the pontiff’s, but he fails to grab it.
The former vice-president said he had meant to make a toast and it was unfortunate he missed out.
“I made a very poor decision and I’m deeply sorry,” he told reporters travelling with him to Italy.
“I was truly truly sincere and sincerely sorry,” he added.
ABC News reports that during a visit to a monastery in Rome, Mr Biden was asked if he had offered Pope Francis a formal embrace.
He reportedly replied: “Yes, it took a long time but we’ve forgiven each other for the past.”
The former vice-president’s search for a presidential candidate continues in Rome where he is in the company of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is preparing for a week-long meeting of top Roman Catholic cardinals to assess candidates.
He is considered to be among the favourites for the position.
Cardinal Turkson posted a photo on his Facebook page of a warm embrace he shared with Mr Biden during the meeting, along with the caption: “Thank you. I am so grateful to spend time with you.”
They had met as part of a Vatican delegation to discuss climate change.
Mr Biden spoke in front of about 1,000 delegates of the global Catholic movement known as Pax Christi, at the Vatican’s conclave on Monday.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption No formal handshake was part of Joe Biden’s greeting with Pope Francis
In his speech, he said that despite the church’s divisive past, the church could not be “unbalanced” in its approach to sex abuse issues.
Pope Francis was travelling to Albania on Friday to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in New York.
Mr Biden, now 79, served two terms as US vice-president under former President Barack Obama, and was seen as his most likely choice to succeed him in 2009.
However, he ultimately bowed out of the race saying he had done nothing to impress voters.