Vice President Joe Biden, an Irish American Catholic, will lead the American delegation to the Inaugural mass of Pope Francis I on Tuesday next.
"I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome for his Inaugural Mass," Biden said in a statement today.
"The Catholic Church plays an essential role in my life and the lives of more than a billion people in America and around the world, not just in matters of our faith, but in pursuit of peace and human dignity for all faiths. I look forward to our work together in the coming years on many important issues."
President Obama and the First Lady Michelle also extended their well wishes to the pontiff saying the election of a South American pope “speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day."
Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan has heartily welcomed the new pope.
“The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis, marks a great milestone in our church. As successor to Peter, our first pope, Pope Francis stands as the figure of unity for all Catholics wherever they reside. The bishops of the United States and the people of our 195 dioceses offer prayers for our new leader and promise allegiance to him.
“Intense prayer from all around the world surrounded the election of Pope Francis. The bishops of the United States thank God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspired choice of the College of Cardinals.
“With joy in our hearts, we declare "Ad Multos Annos!" (For many years!)
“At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus commissioned St. Peter the rock upon which the Church would be built. Pope Francis continues that mission in an increasingly secular culture, where many people have not come to know or have forgotten that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer,” Dolan said in a statement.
Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley also welcomed the new pontiff.
“We pledge our faithful support for the Holy Father as he leads the church in proclaiming the new evangelization, inviting all people to a develop a closer relationship with Christ and to share that gift with others,” O’Malley said.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was a surprise choice and one of many firsts - the first Pope Francis, the first from the Americas and the first from the Jesuit order.
Pope Francis, aged 76, appeared on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica an hour after white smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel after two day’s deliberation at conclave. The French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced the new pope in Latin saying, “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam" ("I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope").
The excited crowds cheered "Viva il Papa (pope)" as he appeared.
Addressing the crowd in Italian. He said, "Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome."
He said, "Let's pray always for each other. Let's pray for the whole world. May there be a great brotherhood,” before he recited the Lord's Prayer and a Hail Mary.
Although he had not been mentioned as a frontrunner following Pope Benedict’s resignation, when Irish American Cardinals Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan were both mentioned, the Buenos Aires Cardinal reportedly received the second-most votes during the conclave which resulted in Pope Benedict’s election in 2005.
He also went against the assumption made prior to the conclave that the new pope would be younger. He is among the eldest of the 155 cardinals present.
Cardinal Bergoglio is known as a conservative and humble head of the Catholic Church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio has never lived in an ornate mansion, opting instead for a simple bed in a downtown room, headed by a stove. For many years he travelled by public transport and cooked his own meals.
Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio, said of him, “His character is in every way that of a moderate. He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force.”
Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires into a middle-class family of seven. His father, a railway worker, and his mother, a housewife, were of Italian descent. He entered the priesthood at the age of 32, having quit his studies in chemistry after he lost a lung due to a lab accident. For several years he worked as a missionary, visiting the slums in poverty stricken regions.
Although he has given few interviews throughout his career, Bergoglio has spoken out against the secular ways of the Argentine government and Argentine society. In 2010 Bergoglio challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill.
Days before the bill went to Congress he wrote a letter saying, "Let's not be naive. This isn't a simple political fight, it's an attempt to destroy God's plan."
Now named Pope Francis I, he is the 266th pope in the Church’s 2,000-year history chosen by the 155 cardinals, leaders of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
He is the first pope elected from the Americas. Speaking to the Associated Press, Franciscan friar Jose Antonio Cruz said, “It's a huge gift for all of Latin America. We waited 20 centuries. It was worth the wait...Everyone from Canada down to Patagonia is going to feel blessed.”
Pope Francis I is also the first pope in 2,000 years to take this name, after Saint Francis of Assisi. Vatican expert John Allen told CNN this choice of name is “stunning” and “precedent shattering.”
Most importantly the name symbolizes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church.”
Allen added, “The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business as usual.”
Pope Francis faces massive challenges as head of a Roman Catholic Church riddled with crisis and difficulty from the ongoing sexual abuse scandals to a leak of secret papal documents that reveal corruption and rivalry at the Vatican’s core, the Church’s government called the Curia.
The Associated Press has announced that Irish American Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Rome to witness the official installation of Pope Francis I as the head of the Catholic Church, which he believes may take place on Tuesday March 19th.
Here’s the Telegraph’s report on the first appearance of the new Pope Francis I: