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Obama, Boehner offer new pope warm wishes and congratulations

  • Pope Francis flanked by Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)Pope Francis flanked by Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
  • White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The white smoke indicates that the new pope has been elected. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The white smoke indicates that the new pope has been elected. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
  • Pope Francis flanked by Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)Pope Francis flanked by Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
  • Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, center, announces the newly elected pope from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, the first pontiff from Americas. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, center, announces the newly elected pope from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has been elected pope, the first pontiff from Americas. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
  • White smoke billows from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)White smoke billows from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
  • A pilgrim kisses a cross after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)A pilgrim kisses a cross after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
  • Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
  • Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
  • Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
  • Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
  • A woman prays inside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina,  Wednesday, March 13, 2013.  White smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Wednesday evening, in Vatican City, meaning 115 cardinals in a papal conclave elected a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)A woman prays inside the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. White smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Wednesday evening, in Vatican City, meaning 115 cardinals in a papal conclave elected a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
  • Cardinal Jorge Mario  Bergoglio arrives for a meeting, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI's decision to retire. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio arrives for a meeting, at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI's decision to retire. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
  • This Feb. 14, 2013 photo shows Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio leading a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)This Feb. 14, 2013 photo shows Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio leading a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
  • FILE - This Jan. 13, 2007 file photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, then Pope Benedict XVI, left, shakes hands with the archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio during their meeting at the Vatican, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007. Bergoglio, who took the name of Pope Francis,  was elected on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho, files)FILE - This Jan. 13, 2007 file photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, then Pope Benedict XVI, left, shakes hands with the archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio during their meeting at the Vatican, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007. Bergoglio, who took the name of Pope Francis, was elected on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho, files)

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."

"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.

"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."

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