By Molly K. Hooper - 03/17/13 03:50 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), a practicing Catholic, praised the election of Pope Francis and said he was optimistic the new pope would bring reform to the Vatican.
“I do believe that Pope Francis is the right person to really bring reform to the church,” said Boehner on ABC’s “This Week.”
“He’s clearly made a commitment to clean up some of the problems that the church has had,” said Boehner of the new pope. “And it's pretty clear-- from his humble nature that-- that his papacy will be one that I think a lot of people will appreciate.”
The Vatican cardinals last week elected Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope. He took the name of Francis, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, who formally resigned in February.
“This is the first time that we've had a pope from the Americas,” Boehner added. “So, I think it's a giant step forward for the church. Latin America is a very, very Catholic continent.”
Boehner declined an invitation from the White House to join a delegation that will attend the papal installation mass, saying that he would need to stay in Washington to move the House budget and to meet the Irish prime minister, who is arriving this week.
Boehner, though, said he was “grateful for the invitation” from the White House.
"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," Boehner said last week.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading the delegation to Rome, and will be joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).