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.
"It is an honor to lead this bipartisan group of House members to this international event," said Smith, who chairs the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee. "The world is a challenging place, in terms of wars and peace, basic human rights and freedoms. The Holy Father has a major role to play in global affairs. I wish him well as he begins his pontificate and am honored to be a part of this historic occasion. The Pope is more than a spiritual leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he is an inspiration of holiness and goodness, and above all, the faithful proclamation of the Gospel."
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, 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 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).