ROME—Thank goodness the polarized U.S. Congress wasn't in charge of picking the new pope. Vice President Joe Biden, in Rome for Pope Francis’ installation Mass, quipped on Monday that the cardinals who picked the pontiff were “quicker” than gridlocked American politicians.
“I didn’t realize you’d arrange for a new pope so quickly,” Biden said to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano as they met in the Quirinale Palace.
"They are quicker than Italian politics," Napolitano replied in English.
"They're quicker than American politics," the vice president said with a grin.
Biden also suggested that President Barack Obama wanted to attend Pope Francis’ installation Mass—a three-hour affair, in Latin, on Tuesday morning—but could not because of his upcoming trip to the Middle East. "The president sends his regards, and the only reason he's not here is he's going to Israel," Biden said.
Napolitano said Italy would closely watch Obama's trip. Italians "strongly hope" that a new way will be found "in order to open a real, really effective peace process," he said.
"The president is going to deliver that message, that we plan to be very engaged," Biden noted.
The vice president added, "I'm delighted to be here for Pope Francis. He shares a vision that all of us share, to reach out to the poor and the dispossessed. It's a happy time."
Biden later met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti at his official residence, the Palazzo Chigi.