Boehner turns down Biden trip to meet Pope Francis

Olivier Knox

Nope-a-pope? Republican House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Catholic in Congress, won't be joining Vice President Joe Biden, the highest-ranking Catholic in the U.S. government, on his trip to Rome for Pope Francis' inaugural Mass, he announced Thursday. Why? Too much work to do in Washington!

President Barack Obama had invited Boehner to join Biden, who is leading the American delegation to the pope's investiture.

"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," Boehner said in a statement provided by his office. "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.

"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 continued.

On Wednesday, Boehner had joined Obama and Biden in wishing the new pope well.