Boehner Declines Obama's Papal Invitation While Biden Leads US Delegation

AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho

Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to Pope Francis’ installation.

“Jill and I want to offer our congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis, and extend our prayers as he takes on this holy responsibility,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome for his Inaugural Mass. The Catholic Church plays an essential role in my life and the lives of more than a billion people in America and around the world, not just in matters of our faith, but in pursuit of peace and human dignity for all faiths. I look forward to our work together in the coming years on many important issues.”

Biden continued, “My religion defines who I am. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s position. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews.”

One politician not poised to offer the same personal affirmation to the new Pope is House Speaker John Boehner. Although invited by President Barack Obama, the Ohio Republican cites overwhelming duties that will prevent his attendance.

The Associated Press reports:

Boehner says he is grateful for the invitation. He wished the vice president well and said he hopes Biden will send prayers and warm regards from all Americans, especially Catholics, to the first pope from the Americas.

NPR reports:

The new pope, 76-year-old Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pontiff from Latin America and the first Jesuit, but he appears to hold views very much in line with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Bergoglio has chosen the papal name Francis, becoming the 266th to hold the title of spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.

Catholic News Service calls him an accomplished theologian and says Bergoglio has "written books on spirituality and meditation and has been outspoken against abortion and same-sex marriages."

White smoke rose over Vatican City Wednesday announcing to the world that the Catholic Church had selected a new Pope. The Catholic Church's 115 cardinal electors voted in this papal election, and the newly appointed pontiff received at least 77 votes.

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