Speaker of the House John Boehner has tasked Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and leader on many international human rights efforts, to lead the bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation to attend the investiture of former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.
“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: “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.”
The House delegation will fly 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.
Click here to view a Reuters slideshow of Pope Francis.
The Smith co-del to the Vatican will also include 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).