House Speaker John Boehner has declined President Obama’s invitation to join Vice President Joe Biden as part of the delegation to Pope Francis’ inaugural mass.
Boehner, the highest ranking Republican Catholic, explained in a statement Thursday that while he appreciates the invitation, there is too much going on in Washington for him to travel abroad.
“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,” Boehner said.
“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,” he added.
Biden is the first Catholic vice president and currently the highest ranking Catholic in the U.S. government.
On Wednesday, Boehner congratulated the new pope and celebrated the decision.
“Thanks be to God for our new pope, Francis I. American Catholics rejoice over this news, and offer our prayers and blessings to His Holiness with confidence that he will fill the Chair of St. Peter with grace. Even more special is that our church will be led for the first time by a Holy Father from the Americas, marking a new milestone in the history of a faith that has endured for millennia,” he said.
“For me, it is truly inspiring that our new pope has taken the name of Francis, the saint who lived a simple life of humility and charity, setting an example for how to make God’s love visible to all, especially those in despair or pain,” Boehner added.