House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has declined an invitation from the White House to accompany Vice President Biden to the Vatican next week to witness the installation of Pope Francis, who was chosen yesterday to lead the world's more than 1 billion Catholics.
Boehner, a Catholic himself, said, "I am grateful for the invitation to attend the papal investiture in Rome with Vice President Biden, and would like to be able to join the trip. Unfortunately, my duties in the House next week - including hosting President Obama and the Prime Minister of Ireland at the Capitol on Tuesday, and the debate on the budget - make that impossible. I wish the Vice President all the best in his journey, and hope he communicates the prayers and warm regards of every American, especially Catholics, to the first pope from the Americas."
The White House announced yesterday that Biden, the highest-ranking Roman Catholic in the federal government, would travel to the Vatican to witness the papal installation. Biden's trip will coincide with President Obama's previously scheduled trip to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank.