Boehner turns down invite to Rome
House speaker says schedule won't allow it
House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Catholic on Capitol Hill, said he was invited to attend the formal installation of Pope Francis with Vice President Joe Biden, but declined the offer.
Boehner said in a statement he "would like to be able to join the trip" but his schedule would not allow it.
"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," he continued. "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."
Boehner said Wednesday he was pleased at how quickly the cardinals selected a new pope.
"I'm happy that they were able to come to a choice as quickly as they did," he said. "I think that reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is another big step in the right direction for the church."
Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in her weekly press conference Wednesday that she hopes to go and urged reporters to "stay tuned."
The congresswoman who represents San Francisco did, however, express excitement about the pope's new name. The pope chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi, who's also patron saint of San Francisco, she said.
She pointed to the bird that sat atop the Sistine Chapel chimney Wednesday, not long before white smoke came out to signal a pope had been chosen.
"Since St. Francis has always been surrounded by birds, we're reading a great deal into the symbolism of that," she said.
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