Vice President Biden, an observant Catholic, will lead the U.S. delegation to Rome for Pope Francis's installation, a White House official confirmed. No dates have been announced, but the ceremony could take place as early as Tuesday on behalf of Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who was selected Wednesday.
"Jill and I want to offer our congratulations to His Holiness Pope Francis, and extend our prayers as he takes on this holy responsibility," Biden said in a statement Wednesday. "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. 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."
Biden has served as one of President Obama's informal religious advisers on matters concerning the Catholic Church, including the debate over contraception last year under the administration's new health-care law. During the vice presidential debate against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last year, Biden said he did not believe in imposing his personal view on issues such as abortion on the rest of the country.
"My religion defines who I am," Biden said. "Life begins at conception. That's the church's position. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews."
This post has been updated.