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Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took time out of his hectic New York campaigning to speak at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The annual conference gathers world and academic leaders to tackle current social, economic and environmental issues.
Due to the pope’s travel schedule, he was unable to hold a general meeting with conference attendees, as he was preparing for a Saturday trip to the Greek island of Lesbos, where he’ll meet with refugees. He did, however, grant attendee Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, a private audience Friday morning.
Sanders was invited to the conference by its organizer, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, who said Sanders was the only U.S. candidate who had shown a deep interest in the teachings of Pope Francis.
Sanders spoke for 10 minutes, giving a speech entitled “The Urgency of a Moral Economy,” in which he told the assembled crowd, “There are a few places in modern thought that rival the depth and insight of the church’s moral teachings on the market economy.”
He praised Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical that called for a radical overhaul on climate change and global economics.
“I am told time and time again by the rich and powerful, and the mainstream media that represent them, that we should be ‘practical,’ that we should accept the status quo, that a truly moral economy is beyond our reach,” continued Sanders. “Yet Pope Francis, himself, is surely the world’s greatest demonstration against such a surrender to despair and cynicism. He has opened the eyes of the world once again to the claims of mercy, justice and the possibilities of a better world. He is inspiring the world to find a new global consensus for our common home.”
Sanders was greeted in Rome by expat supporters who held signs with slogans such as “Rome is Berning.”
While Sanders is currently down double digits in New York polls versus opponent Hillary Clinton, some analysts think the trip may help him in the primary. “I think it’s a really smart move,” said ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd. “It gives him a lift [and] puts him in a context of being a big leader.”
Clinton is headed to California on Friday for fundraisers, including a closed-door event hosted by George and Amal Clooney.
In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Sanders insisted that his visit to the Vatican conference was “not a political event.” He told the paper he was certain he would win the nomination and beat Donald Trump to the White House.
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