Bernie Sanders To Divert From Campaign Trail After Pope Francis Invitation

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders will temporarily take time off from his campaign to head to the Vatican, after Pope Francis invited him to participate in a conference.

Just before he faces the critical New York primary, Bernie Sanders has been asked to participate in a conference on social, economic, and environmental issues.

As confirmed both by the Sanders campaign and also the Vatican, Bernie will be participating in the conference in the Vatican on April 15, along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, and several others.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bernie Sanders told MSNBC Friday that he was “very moved by the invitation,” saying he admires Pope Francis for his efforts “to inject a sense of morality into how we do economics.”

The potential Jewish U.S. president said he is a “big, big fan of the pope,” adding there will obviously be areas where they disagree, including women’s rights and gay rights. However he added that Pope Francis has played “an unbelievable role of injecting a moral conscience into the economy.”

According to a press release by the Bernie Sanders campaign, the conference will focus on creating an economy of “dignity, social justice and environmental sustainability,” all matters of importance to Sanders.

However, according to a Vatican representative, it doesn’t sound like there will be a personal meeting between Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders, as the Pope isn’t scheduled to meet with the presidential hopeful during his visit.

Once Bernie Sanders is back in the U.S., he is hoping to cause an upset to the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in New York, the state she represented in the U.S. senate for eight years, when New York voters head to the polls on April 19.

In other news relating to Pope Francis, on Friday the pontiff urged a more lenient approach to divorced Catholics, asking the Catholic Church to show more compassion to “imperfect” members of the congregation who are divorced or who have remarried.

This will effectively encourage clergy to grant Holy Communion to some divorced members of the congregation. Currently divorcees reportedly cannot receive Holy Communion unless they abstain from sex with their new partner.

In the treatise called “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), which was presented on Friday by the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis said that individual conscience should be the guiding principle for Catholics relating to sex, marriage, and family life.

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However, the Pope did reaffirm his opposition to gay marriage, although he did say homosexuals within the congregation of the church should be “respected.”

As reported by ITV, Pope Francis said, “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”

Pope Francis also called for young people to be better prepared for a life-long commitment, stressing the need for sex education, while still not focusing on contraception.

The pontiff also praised the “erotic dimension” of love within marriage and said the Church needed a “healthy dose of self-criticism” as in the past, it had tended to preach that procreation was the “almost exclusive” reason for sex.

[Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Comedy Central]