Congressional chaplain can stay in job, says Paul Ryan

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said late on Thursday that the chamber's chaplain will remain in his position, after he unexpectedly asked Reverend Patrick Conroy to resign two weeks ago, outraging some lawmakers and the Jesuit priest himself.

Conroy released a letter earlier on Thursday rescinding his abrupt resignation which Ryan, a Catholic and the top Republican in the House, said he had accepted. Conroy's last day had been scheduled for May 24.

"My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution," Ryan said in a statement. "To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves. It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body, and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post."

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Rev. Patrick Conroy as chaplain of the House
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Rev. Patrick Conroy as chaplain of the House
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 14: House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy, Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., center, and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., attend a swearing-in ceremony for the new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, September 14, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Patrick Conroy, Chaplain of the House of Representatives, leads Democrats and Republicans in prayer before they face off in the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, U.S., June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
UNITED STATES - MARCH 07: Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, check on judges former Rep. Vin Weber, R-Minn., left, and House Chaplain Patrick Conroy during the second annual 'hotdish' competition in the Capitol Visitor Center, featuring casserole-like dishes from members of the Minnesota Congressional Delegation. The dishes of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., tied for first place in the competition. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES ? SEPTEMBER 12: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, left, and Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, members of both houses of Congress down the East Front steps of the Capitol to hold a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 11: Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks on the East Front steps of the Capitol during the 9/11 Congressional Remembrance Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 11: From left, Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., join members of Congress on the east steps of the Capitol during the 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony on on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 11: Rev. Patrick Conroy, Chaplain of the House, attends the 2013 National Days of Remembrance ceremony in the Capitol rotunda to honor the victims of the Holocaust. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: Chris Martin with other NAMM members meet with Rep. Matt Cartwright(D-PA), Father Patrick J. Conroy and Rep. Joseph Crowley(D-NY) on the steps of the capitol during NAMM D.C. Fly-in at the US Capitol on May 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NAMM)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: Chris Martin with other NAMM members meet with Rep. Matt Cartwright(D-PA), Father Patrick J. Conroy and Rep. Joseph Crowley(D-NY) on the steps of the capitol during NAMM D.C. Fly-in at the US Capitol on May 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for NAMM)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 4: Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, left, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., walk up the House steps as members of Congress arrive for votes in the Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 13: Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., center, is consoled by Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, Father Patrick J. Conroy, left, as Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., looks on at conclusion of the vigil and moment of silence on U.S. Capitol Steps on Monday, June 13, 2016, in remembrance of victims of the Orlando shooting. The event was held by the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and the Congressional Muslim Staff Association. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 18: Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, blesses the walnut tree during the tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 18: From left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Daniel Secatore, grandson of Louise Slaughter, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, pose shoveling dirt during the walnut tree planting ceremony in memory of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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It is unusual for House chaplains to be dismissed, and Democrats said the ouster was tied to a prayer Conroy led during debate over the tax overhaul Republicans passed at the end of last year without any support from the minority party. Ryan and fellow Republicans, however, said the lawmakers needed better pastoral care.

In his statement, Ryan said he would meet with Conroy next week.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert Editing by Chris Reese)

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