Biden: Obama Can't be at Pope's Mass Because of Israel Trip
Vice President Joe Biden is in Rome for bilateral talks in advance of Pope Francis' installation Mass on Tuesday.
Biden first met briefly with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Palazzo del Quirinale.
"I didn't realize you'd arrange for a new pope so quickly," Biden quipped to the Italian premier, according to the White House pool report.
"They are quicker than Italian politics," Napolitano replied.
"They're quicker than American politics," Biden said, grinning. "The president sends his regards and the only reason he's not here is he's going to Israel."
Obama is in Washington today to announce his new pick for Labor secretary, Tom Perez, and attend a Women's History Month reception. On Tuesday he hosts Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the White House and goes to the St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at the Capitol; that evening is the annual shamrock ceremony at a White House reception. Obama doesn't leave for Israel until late Tuesday.
Napolitano told Biden Italy hopes "a new way will be found" to jump-start the peace process.
"The President is going to deliver that message, that we plan to be very engaged," Biden said.
He followed this with a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti at Palazzo Chigi, and was rounding out the day with talks with President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland and President Tomislav Nikolic of Serbia.
Biden, though, will not get a one-on-one sit-down with the pope. Instead, he'll be part of the receiving line of world leaders and dignitaries with which Francis will shake hands.
"I'm delighted to be here for Pope Francis. He shares a vision that all of us share, to reach out to the poor and the dispossessed," Biden said.