- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

President Obama offered the newly selected Pope Francis “warm wishes” and prayers from himself and the first lady as he begins his papacy in a time of transition for the Vatican.

“As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years — that in each other we see the face of God,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

As the first pope from the Americas — Pope Francis served as a cardinal in his home of Argentina for his entire career, Mr. Obama said his selection “speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world. “alongside millions of Hispanic Americans,” he said, “those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”

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“Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings, regardless of their faith,” Mr. Obama said.

Emerging from a meeting with Mr. Obama and the rest of the House GOP conference, reporters asked Speaker John Boehner, a Roman Catholic, about his thoughts on the selection of Pope Francis.

“Congratulations,” Mr. Boehner deadpanned.

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“I’m happy they were able to come to a choice as quickly as they did,” he continued when pressed for a longer reaction. “I think reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is commendable and is best and the right direction for the church.”