Bernie Sanders got a movie star welcome upon his arrival at the Vatican. As he walked past the walls, Sanders was greeted with a swarm of reporters, and a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers began to chant, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” Sanders took the time to greet people, some of whom were expats living in Europe.
The Italian journalists began clamoring around him. So much so, he had to ask them to give him some room to answer questions. He gave a hint at his official speech as he held a brief press conference just outside the doors of the Vatican, which included the need to create a “moral economy.”
“In my country and around the world we have seen a handful of very, very wealthy people become wealthier, while most people are becoming poorer. That to me is unacceptable, it is unsustainable, it is immoral. We have definitely got to change that. And I have been enormously impressed by Pope Francis speaking and his visionary views. We have to ingrain moral principles into our economy.”
Sanders also criticized the fossil fuel industry, blaming its greed for the drastic climate change that threatens life on our planet.
“Whether the fossil fuel industry likes it or not, we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.”
As part of his trip to the Vatican, he gave an interview with Italian news outlet Repubblica, Sanders expressed gratitude at being invited to speak.
“I am very happy and proud to participate in the conference. I received the invitation from the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, to whom I express my thanks. The team of speakers is of high standard and focused on the issues that I have been studying and proposing for decades: the topics of social justice and environmental sustainability, all key issues for the global economic upturn.”
Sanders was also asked if he felt that leaving the campaign trail to speak at the Vatican was the right thing to do. Bernie replied that he believed speaking before the conference was no mistake, and that it was a message the world needs to hear.
Sanders was also asked if he believes he has the support of the Holy See in this election. He didn’t mince words in his reply.
“No, I don’t. The Vatican is not involved in this. And the conference program is not a political event.”
Bernie’s reception with the media at the Vatican was much different than how he is treated by the media here in the United States. In the U.S., he is still touted as a fringe candidate with little hope of winning the nomination. But in Rome, Sanders was mobbed by reporters just feet from the Vatican walls.
Sanders sat next to Bolivian President Evo Morales, who greeted him warmly upon his arrival. The speech praised Pope John Paul II, and called the late pontiff’s warnings about unfettered greed “deeply prescient.”
“Twenty-five years after Centesimus Annus, speculation, illicit financial flows, environmental destruction, and the weakening of the rights of workers is far more severe than it was a quarter century ago.”
He also praised Pope Francis, who he said has been instrumental in bringing global awareness to economic, social, and environmental issues that many had not paid attention to before.
“Pope Francis has given the most powerful name to the predicament of modern society: the Globalization of Indifference.”
The Associated Press reports that Sanders did have the opportunity to meet briefly with Pope Francis. The meeting took place before the pontiff left for his trip to Greece early Saturday morning. According to his foreign policy advisor Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Jane and Bernie Sanders met with Pope Francis for about five minutes in a foyer at the papal residence.
“It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”
While Bernie Sanders was at the Vatican speaking for the need of a moral economy, Hillary Clinton was attending a high-dollar fundraiser in California featuring actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal.
[Photo by Andrew Medichini/AP]