During the meeting, Boehner reportedly became emotional and recalled a moment that had occurred during Pope Francis’s historical speech to Congress. During the event, John Boehner, who had helped orchestrate the Pope’s congressional visit, had met with Pope Francis who had asked the speaker to pray for him. While reflecting upon the moving scene, Boehner told Congress:
“I never thought I’d be in Congress, let alone be speaker” (1).
Robert Costa, political reporter at the Washington Post, explained how himself and Politico’s Jake Sherman had heard rumors from numerous lawmakers was mulling retirement and that Boehner privately saw the Pope’s visit as “a fitting denouement to his long political career” (2).
In an article about Boehner’s resignation, Costa explained how he had met the speaker at the Capitol on the night of the Pope’s historical congressional visit. The reporter recalled how Boehner had emotionally spoken of his meeting with Pope Francis.
“So, the Pope puts his arm around my left arm,” Boehner tells Costa, adding that the Pope said to him, “Please pray for me.”
Approximately 14 hours after the meeting, Boehner announced his coming retirement, a declaration that shocked many of his colleagues.
“We didn’t get the scoop, but we sensed that something had changed. Boehner was at peace,” wrote Costa.
A video of the event shown on CBS News, shows how Republican John Boehner, who stands behind Pope Francis during his speech to Congress is visibly moved, crying and using a handkerchief (3). Directly under the video, CBS News asks the question “Did Pope Francis’ visit contribute to Boehner’s resignation?”
Rep. Ann Wagner, who in the wake of Boehner’s resignation said she may attempt to move up in House Republican leadership, said she had gotten a “close-up view” on the hints that Boehner was providing in the hours before, during and after Pope Francis’ recent speech to US Congress.
Wagner had attended a private meeting with Boehner shortly after the Pope’s speech. Wagner, who like Boehner is a devout Catholic, said that the emotion Boehner had shown during and after the Pope’s visit helped her gauge an understanding of the speaker’s shock resignation decision.
“The speaker was beyond moved,” said Wagner.
Is There More to the Story?
Boehner’s readiness to make deals with President Obama had created intense opposition in the speaker’s own conclave. Some people speculate he may have resigned because he knew he did not have the votes to retain the Speaker position.
Ann Wagner continued that over the years John Boehner had invited three popes to speak to Congress. It seems that the fact Pope Francis had accepted the invitation to speak to Congress and the emotions the meeting evoked during a time when Boehner was under attack, was, as STL Today writes, “a divine political message for the devout Catholic Boehner.”
“He is an unselfish man who had reached that pinnacle and believes it was time to go,” Wagner added.
Wagner’s views were reiterated by Representative Paul Ryan, who said in a statement following Boehner’s resignation:
“John Boehner has been a great leader of the Republican Party and the House of Representatives. This was an act of pure selflessness.”
While nobody except John Boehner himself will know the real reasons behind his resignation, it certainly seems Pope Francis’ words contributed to the shocking stepping down of an American leader. He may or may not have had additional reasons.