Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders met with Pope Francis after all during his visit to the Vatican City. Sanders announced that he met briefly with the Pope early on Saturday morning, April 16, 2016. Sanders was at the Vatican on Friday, April 1, to address the conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on social, economic and environmental issues. Originally, the Vatican regretted that Pope Francis would not be able to attend the conference or meet Sanders because of his trip on Saturday to Lesbos, Greece on Saturday, but in the end, the Pope wished to meet Sanders before departing.
Sanders and his wife Jane met with Pope Francis for 5 minutes early Saturday morning, at 6 a.m. Vatican time in a meeting Sanders called “extraordinary. Sanders is a non-practicing, cultural Jew while his wife Jane is a Catholic. The Democratic candidate and the Pope met in the hall at Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican residence where the Sanders were staying during their two-day visit.
Sanders often praises Pope Francis, the two share similar views on a number of issues including economic equality. On Saturday, the Vermont Senator continued calling the Pope “one of the great leaders in modern world history.”Sanders later told reporters about his meeting, “He is a beautiful man. I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him. It was very wonderful to meet him.” His wife Jane expressed, “the trip was definitely worth it.”
Sanders did not provide many details of the meeting, saying, “It was an extraordinary moment. And I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with him.” There were no photos taken of the meeting. Sanders recounted to ABC News what happened during their short meeting, “I just conveyed to him my admiration for the extraordinary work he is doing raising some of the most important issues facing our planet and the billions of people on the planet and injecting the need for morality in the global economy.” To CNN Sanders added about the Pope “raising consciousness about massive levels of income and wealth inequality.”
From Pope Francis’ perspective, the meeting was not political nor was it an endorsement. The Pope spoke to reporters about his meeting when he was returning from Greece, where he brought back three Syrian refugee families. The two shook hands, but Pope Francis related, “When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more. It’s called manners and not getting involved in politics. If anyone thinks that a greeting is getting involved in politics, then I recommend they look for a psychiatrist.” Neither was the meeting planned specifically to meet Sanders. The Pope recounted, “This morning when I left, Sen. Sanders was there … He knew I was leaving at that time and I had the kindness to greet them and his wife and another couple who were with them.”
Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs was also at the meeting with Pope Francis and Sanders and his wife. Sachs recounted that Sanders received the invite to meet the Pope in the early hour. The economics professor said, the Pope “wanted to greet the senator. It was wonderful. They had a few minutes … together.” Sachs pointed that two share a similar message “about the morality of our economic life,” which “of course is a key theme and message of Pope Francis and I think there is a lot of resonance.”
Sanders arrived at the Vatican City with his wife, four children, and some grandchildren on Friday morning. According to CNN, there were Sanders supporters at the Vatican as well, and in the streets, they were holding signs reading, “Rome is berning.” Sanders delivered a 15-minute speech to the Pontifical Academy on the “urgency of a moral economy.”
Sanders touched on similar issues he speaks about in his campaign speeches. Sanders expressed, “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.”
Sanders also commanded The Pope directly in his speech, stating, “I am told time and time again … that a truly moral economy is beyond our reach. Pope Francis himself is surely the world’s greatest demonstration against such a surrender to despair and cynicism.” Sanders trip to the Vatican comes days before the important and delegate-rich New York primary on Tuesday, April 19.