(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden, the first Roman Catholic to serve as vice president, will lead the U.S. delegation to next week's formal installation of Pope Francis, he 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," he wrote. "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."
Speaking on CNN, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica called the news Biden would attend the installation mass "significant," explaining the Vatican doesn't formally extend invitations to other governments.
"Many heads of state have been letting us know their desire to come," Rosica said. "The Holy See never invites people to come to this, but they inform governments we have a new leader and I think many people will be coming and I'm sure many people from Latin America, South America will be coming as well."
The choice of Biden to attend next week's installation means President Barack Obama will not have to alter his planned trip to the Middle East. Asked if it would have been more appropriate for Obama himself to attend Pope Francis' installation, Rosica said "it is not up to me to comment on anything like that."
"We're just grateful people are coming, and those who are coming know who they are coming to see," he added.
Earlier in the day, Obama said in a statement the selection of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to become the next pope spoke to the "strength and vitality of a region that in increasingly shaping our world."
He also pointed to the large number of Hispanic-Americans in the United States, who are overwhelmingly Catholic.
"Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith," Obama wrote. "We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world."
Obama learned a new pope had been selected during a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill. An aide passed him a note with the news that white smoke was seen pouring out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, and he relayed the information to lawmakers present.
One Republican jokingly asked whether it meant tours at the White House, which have been suspended as a result of spending cuts, had resumed. He replied tours of the Vatican were back on.
After the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner, who is also Catholic, said 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," Boehner said. "I think that reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is another big step in the right direction for the church."
Sending the Gaffomatic? Brilliant!
No, no, Biden is going, not Romney.
Remember folks, that the VP attending the installation of the new Pontiff is more than a religious ceremony; it is the ceremonious introduction of a new world leader. Vatican City is, in fact, a sovereign entity, and the Bishop of Rome serves as ex-officio leader. I applaud VP Biden and his willingness to celebrate the new leader. And a Pope Francis I is a man of humility and piety, he should fare well with our own "Man of the People" Biden. And gaffs will happen – its the Biden charm factor. I cannot think of a single instance where a Biden gaffe has placed the US in any real international incident.
"now listen to Pope Francis. He gave up his formal residence in Buenos Aires to live in a humble single room apartment. He has written papers against the free market because it depresses the poor. He spoke against big business and the deregulation of the financial industry in 2005 as immoral."
Cool, keep posting about him until people learn.
This announcement talks about the Vice President attending the formal installation of the new Pope. Mr. Biden's adherence to his religion is his business. Each of us has the opportunity to choose our own religion and to practice it without anyone negating his/her beliefs.
It seems as if people need to make negative remarks for every story. Give it up already!
For the Fox News drones searching for critical comments about Vice President Biden I'll remind you of my favorite memory of your last leader's proudest diplomatic moment. When "W" Bush tried to give the German Chencellor Angela Merkel an affectionate neck rub, while the world press covered the meeting, she jumped and looked bvack at him like he was a complete idiot. Good call on her part...
Vice President is a devout Catholic and a perfect choice for this mission. Joe is loved by those who actually care about our working folks.
A Catholic against Life, Traditional Marriage and everything else the church believes in. Biden I hope you have a talk with the Pope to determine where your conscience lies... Catholics that think they are Catholics, Its a hard life to live but we can sure try are best to follow the Church's teachings... Pelosi and others need to determine if they are truly Catholics, you are told during your baptism and sadly not all keep up to that promise.
Pope to meet dope.
The pope is also a head of state, not just a religious leader.
Aye Yi Yi Yi Yi Yi! Hope Joe doesn't have one of those " debate laughing jags" or eye rolling fits when the Pope speaks to him.
And how much is this costing the tax payers?
Biden is a Catholic by choice.
Have a nice vacation Joe.
I am not a Catholic but I would like to point out that the Pope is not just any religious leader, he is also the leader of a state as the Vatican is considered its own state. He is, arguably, the most powerful religious leader in the world. Like it or not, this man has enormous power over world events and over millions of people in the US and millions more scattered all over the planet. Any papal election as much as any presidential election is world history. I'm glad that Vice President Biden will be representing us. He is a warm and decent man and a welcome relief from the spite and malice of so many GOP politicians and their supporters.
This is an outrage. Biden support abortion legislation and stated he would never given witness to the Church's teaching that it is immoral. I'm not a Catholic, but why hasn't the Catholic Church excommunicate this heretic.
Doesn't matter who the US sends becasue they are all embarrassments but I would say Biden is more of a slap in the face since he does not practice Catholicsm
A very pro choice catholic going to honor a very pro life pope. Interesting. I do hope the pope gives Biden an audience.
Please don't send the most embarrassing VP of all time without his muzzle. Maybe the new Pope will deny Clueless Joe communion since he doesn't follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
PLEASE don't let him talk to anyone. Just go. Then leave.
In the Aparecida Document, a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America, Cardinal Bergoglio commented on the worthiness of individuals to receive the Eucharist. The text states in paragraph 436 that, "We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence’, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals."
Given the VP's views on abortion and contraception, could he be denied Eucharist at the Papal Inaugural Mass?
Of course, because there is nothing happening here at home to be concerned about.
I love Joe Biden, as do the majority of people who voted for him and our President. All of the hatred that people possess, thankfully, seems to die down with each election toward a brighter future. If you haven't heard, the racist, anti-everyone-in-the-99% views that define the Republican Party are the exact reason why the Democrats continue to gain numbers, and why the Democrats are the party that represents the majority, Middle Class voters.
Why are we sending Biden, He's a national embarrassment, Keep the him hidden from the public!
Great an international incident is all we need. Someone get Joe a teleprompter. Whatever you do don't let him tell a joke!
Good choice sending Biden. Now if they'll only keep him......
To all of you, actually, the Pope IS a head of state of a country. The United States recognizes the Vatican City as an independent state. The fact that it has a population of about 600 people is irrelevant.