Boehner says schedule will keep him from attending Pope’s ceremony

House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., said “unfortunately” he could not accept President Barack Obama’s invitation to join Vice President Joe Biden next week on a flight to the Vatican for the investiture of Pope Francis.

In a statement, Boehner, the highest ranking Catholic in Congress, said was “grateful for the invitation” and said he would have “liked to be able to join the trip.

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.”

Boehner said Obama issued the invitation Wednesday when the president met with House Republicans yesterday.