When Bernie Sanders left the campaign trail just before the New York primary and headed to The Vatican, reports indicated that Sanders would not get a chance to meet with Pope Francis. On Saturday, to Sanders reported honor, Pope Francis did meet with him, just as Sanders supporters had predicted, but contrary to what media reports projected. Sanders was invited by The Vatican to participate in an important meeting about social justice and economic issues.
No photographs were taken during the meeting between Sanders and Pope Francis, in accordance with rules at the Vatican City guesthouse. The Vatican City guesthouse is where Pope Francis lives, according to The New York Times, and where Sanders met the Pope Saturday morning. Sanders and his family stayed the night in the guesthouse, where the Pope himself lives.
According to an Il Messaggero report, the Pope’s entourage had said that there may be a surprise before he left The Vatican. The change of plan was later confirmed that Pope Francis decided to break from an existing rule, stating that during an election campaign, the Holy See should not meet with any candidate. The Pope made an exception in order to meet with Sen. Sanders, the Italian report stated. The Pope was clear that the meeting had nothing to do with politics, and it should not be seen as political involvement on his part.
“If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that he look for a psychiatrist,” the Pope said.
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) April 15, 2016
Sen. Sanders gave a 15-minute speech before the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, which is a group that examines social, economic and environmental issues, the night before he met with Pope Francis.
Adviser Jeffrey D. Sachs was present when Senator Sanders met with Pope Francis, before the pontiff’s trip to Greece. Sachs said that Pope Francis thanked the Democratic presidential candidate “for coming to the meeting and for coming to speak about the moral economy.”
— Danny Freeman (@DannyEFreeman) April 16, 2016
On the flight back to New York after meeting with the pope, Sanders described the meeting.
“I conveyed to him my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of our economy. We have got to move toward a moral economy, not simply an economy based on greed.”
According to Time, Pope Francis told Sanders that he was thankful that Sen. Sanders accepted the invitation to the Vatican to speak and apologized that he was unable to attend the meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science on Friday night.
Sanders, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment, said that that encyclical, a papal letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, “has played a profound role in changing a lot of consciousness on the reality of climate change and the need to act boldly to address it.”
Sanders and Francis have both separately paid compliments toward each other throughout the 2016 campaign, but the senator from Vermont did not go to The Vatican seeking an endorsement. He went because he was invited to speak, according to Bishop Marcelo Sanches Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Science.
Dr. Jane Sanders, Sen. Bernie Sanders wife, was also present at the meeting. If Bernie Sanders becomes president, he and his wife would be the first interfaith couple in the White House, Fusion reported. Dr. Sanders, a Catholic who once won a scholarship to an all-girls Catholic high school, also accompanied her husband to The Vatican and when they initially arrived, they were welcomed by a crowd holding handmade “Bernie 2016” signs.
Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders have “unplanned” meetup, talk about morality in the economy. https://t.co/iNtTXbO6pM pic.twitter.com/IS6AUUfKPs
— Religion NewsService (@RNS) April 16, 2016
“Today certainly was the highlight of the trip,” Sanders told NBC News of his breakfast meeting with the pontiff, calling the new pope “one of the great leaders in this world.”
“In terms of economic justice, the need to combat climate change — nobody in the world has been more profound and articulate than the pope, and I’m delighted to go forward with him on those issues.”
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) April 16, 2016
Sanders’ supporters said that Bernie Sanders was looking mighty presidential during his trip to The Vatican, where he was greeted by a crowd shouting his name, delivered a speech to the Academy, met with Pope Francis in the early hours of Saturday morning, and defied mainstream reporters’ predictions.
An arrogant male reporter I know said to me: “you know he’s NOT actually meeting the pope, right?”
NOW THIS: https://t.co/0wIC2UD63O
— Winnie Wong (@WaywardWinifred) April 16, 2016
Clinton Foundation invites Pope, he declines. Vatican invites Bernie, Media spins it. Pope talks to Bernie, media spins it.
— Jordan (@JordanxPage) April 16, 2016
Pope Francis generally avoids involvement in electoral politics, according to Time, though he did previously state that GOP candidate Donald Trump is “not Christian,” citing Trumps campaign message in support of deporting immigrants.
Though Bernie Sanders made it clear that the Pope did not endorse him, it should also be noted that a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter and an author of Inside the Vatican, wrote an article making sure that Catholic Americans are aware that, regardless of Sanders’ stance on abortion and birth control, it’s OK for Catholics to vote for Bernie.
— ImplausibleEndeavors (@MindOfMo) April 16, 2016
[Photo by Andrew Medichini/AP Images]