“I am a big, big fan of the pope,”
“He’s trying to inject this sense of morality into how we do economics … and we need that absolutely desperately.”
– Sanders, in an interview on MSNBC
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders met privately with Pope Francis on Saturday, the capstone to an unusual detour from the American election. Sanders said the meeting was for personal reasons and does not constitute an endorsement from the Holy See.
“I am an enormous fan of the pope because I think he has played a transformative role in the world in talking about issues that very rarely get the kind of discussion they deserve,” Sanders said in an interview aboard his chartered plane. “Whether it is income and wealth inequality, whether it is what he calls the dispossessed, the young people, the old people, the unemployed people who are on the sidelines of society, whether it is the ideology of greed, whether it is need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to save the planet, he has been a transformative leader.
“And he is a very beautiful man,” Sanders continued. “When you meet him, you see something very, very special in his face. He is a man of peace, and you see that.”
Vatican City – In a final speech to the synod, Pope Francis endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States, while taking some clear swipes at conservatives who hold up church doctrine above all else, and use it to cast judgment on others.
Some of Sanders’s advisers, including his wife, Jane, also were at the meeting. He said that there was no discussion of his underdog candidacy or the election. There was no photograph of the brief meeting at the papal residence complex, in keeping with Vatican protocol and also, Sanders said, “to make clear that there is no endorsement here.”
Francis, on Saturday, made it clear that his meeting with Sanders was not political, saying that those who thought it was should “look for a psychiatrist,” according to Reuters.
The pontiff met Sanders at the Vatican guest house, where the pope lives. “When I came down, I greeted him, I shook his hand and nothing more. This is called good manners and it is not getting involved in politics,” Reuters says the pope told reporters, during an answer to a question aboard the plane returning from the Greek island of Lesbos, where he visited a refugee camp.
“If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that he look for a psychiatrist,” he reportedly said while laughing.
Sanders was at the Vatican, participating in a seminar on income inequality and economic justice at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, where he was invited to attend as well as speak. He and other conference invitees spent the night at the Vatican after the conference.
The trip suggests that Sanders is looking ahead to how he would continue and expand the focus on very liberal social justice issues that has defined his candidacy. In a matter of months he moved from gadfly to serious challenger to the longtime Democratic favorite, largely on the strength of a set of ideas more common to liberal university campuses than the political debate stage.
“If elected president I certainly would look forward to working with the pope in trying to create a moral economy, which was the theme of this conference; an economy which challenges the idea that greed has got to be the dominant force in the world’s economy,” Sanders said.
And if he loses?
“Well, the ideas and the efforts remain the same. I’m a United States senator from Vermont. And I’ll continue to fight the fights that I’ve always fought,” with a larger platform to do so, Sanders said.