(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."
great idea.. send one of our most arrogant cocky politicians to meet with one of the most humble men in humanity.. Wonderful idea.
The Juda JB, who wearing the U.S. VP shirt, will go to Rome for Pope Inaugura Mass..... something wrong. Do you we have a better people to present us????? Probably, Vatican guards kicked him out before.
OMG. What stupidity will come from his mouth?
Great...this will be another first. The first excommunication of a Vice Presiden of the United States. He should take Pelosi and Kerry so the Pope can get a triple play.
religion and politics total fornication
What about the separation of church and state? I have no problem with Biden going to Rome for the pope's formal installation, but I do have a problem if his trip is financed with taxpayer funds.
It is discouraging to see all the negatives about such a positive thing as our Vice President attending the installation of the new Pope. I guess some don't understand how the world works and that world leaders show support at important times like this. A little intelligence and a bigger mind set would go a long way toward making some people more positive.
The Pope is a Head of State. Totally appropriate for the Vice President to go.
So much for separation of church and state... why don't they just ignore the rest of the rules too. Oh wait, they have been.
"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."
EXCEPT if you're LGBT and especially not if you're the victim of one of the Church's less than holy priests
Don't screw it up Joe, like you do everything else.
Some of you need a little more schooling. Why are we sending the VP to the installation of a pope? He is a Head of State in addition to being a religious leader. I am not Catholic, but even I know that.
"The pope is not a leader of a country"?? Actually, Vatican City is a country. And, the reason for sending Bidon is called diplomacy. For reading a CNN article, you would think that one would be a little more intelligent than a Fox News follower....
That is wonderful must mean our financial house is in order. Oh wait maybe Biden is paying for his trip
Better not be on my dime
Wait, whatever happened to separation of church and state? If a conservative vice president were doing this we would hear it from libs for the next year. C'mon you libs – say something. Oh, I forget, you're nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.anyway.
well while everyone is talking about what a GREAT HONOR it is....would someone mind explaining to me just WHO is going to be paying for this?? Honest answer would be just fantastic!! No, really it would!!
To the people upset that Joe is going to this especially that pope is a religious person. Understand this people, the Vatican is a State and the Pope is the Head of that State and so he is attending his inauguration which happens to be a mass – a sophmoric explanation but to the haters on this site very appropriate. They even have a Cabinet. GEt it = the Vatican is its own little country within a country and the Pope is the Head of State ergo Heads of State attend.
The VP is Catholic and should go to Rome for this. This is an especially important time for Catholics all over the world. Long live the Pope!!!
well.. lets see if they can get the catholics mad at the US
oh wait they already are
You really didn't think the Anti-Christ was going to risk the trip,did you?
Why are we spending money to for flying and security, etc for a government official for a religious event. Does this mean he is going to attend Islamic events as well, and the list goes on.
"Great- maybe Pope Francis can pull him aside and remind him what the Church actually teaches on abortion and contraception."
Don't forget gay marriage, stoning of people, original sin for a talking snake, living in a sea monster belly for 3 days, covering for cases of child abuse.
They should be sending George Dubya.
Attending international events like the installation of a Pope or the funeral of a national leader, is often a requirement of bieng Vice President, but I suspect that Biden would have gone even if he wasn't vice President and rather a Senator.
Oh sure. Send the "fake Catholic" over to Rome instead of the "fake Christian". Makes sense.
Stay tuned folks, I'm sure 'good ole Average Joe' will come up with some of his stupid comments to embarrass us all, again.