Speaker of the House John Boehner has chosen a pro-life champion to lead the bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation to attend the investiture of former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.
The news comes as newly-elected Pope Francis used his second-ever blessing as the head of the Catholic Church to bless a pregnant mother and her unborn child. Pope Francis, who as been hailed by pro-life advocates once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a 2007 speech and likening opposition to abortion to opposition to the death penalty.
While pro-abortion president Barack Obama tapped pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden and pro-abortion Rep. Nancy Pelosi to head the official U.S. delegation, Boehner selected a pro-life champion, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, to lead the members of Congress.
“On behalf of Speaker Boehner and the entire U.S. House of Representatives, I will convey our deepest respect, congratulations and best wishes to Pope Francis on his installation Tuesday and offer our earnest prayers for his mission to the world,” said Smith, who chairs the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee. “Holy, wise, empathetic and humble, Pope Francis radiates Christ to a world absolutely yearning for truth, clarity, mercy and higher meaning.
“The new Pope builds on the extraordinary work of his immediate predecessors—Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI,” Smith said. “He calls us to imitate Jesus Christ Himself by loving God above all things, by loving and tangibly caring for our neighbor—especially the weakest, the poor and most vulnerable—by forgiving unconditionally and by courageously advancing the culture of life no matter the cost.”
“Having visited Jewish leaders in Buenos Aires myself and from my many ongoing contacts in the Orthodox Church, other denominations and other faiths, I know Pope Francis not only ardently respects—and is respected by others in the faith community—but cherishes ecumenical cooperation and friendship,” he said.
While in Rome, Smith hopes to meet with Vatican officials to discuss human rights issues, including human trafficking, religious freedom and culture of life issues.
In selecting Smith to lead the delegation, Boehner said: “The installation of Pope Francis, the first Holy Father ever to hail from the Americas, is a milestone in world history and an event of monumental significance to the millions of Americans who share in the Catholic faith. I’m pleased Congressman Smith and this bipartisan group of Members will join the Vice President in communicating the prayers and warm regards of the American people to Pope Francis as he begins his papacy.”
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The House delegation flew yesterday to Rome on commercial air flights, in compliance with the Speaker’s directive that Member use of military air transportation be suspended with sequestration in effect.
The Smith-led delegation to the Vatican includes Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).