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Sanders meets briefly with Pope, speaks at Vatican conference; Pope calls meeting apolitical

April 18, 2016

Before departing for the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, Pope Francis greeted Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife.

The two were staying as guests at Domus Sanctae Marthae because the presidential candidate was speaking at a conference organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. The presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador also spoke at the conference, which was devoted to St. John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus.

“With the fall of Communism, Pope John Paul II gave a clarion call for human freedom in its truest sense: freedom that defends the dignity of every person and that is always oriented towards the common good,” Sanders said on April 15 at the conference.

He added:

The Church’s social teachings, stretching back to the first modern encyclical about the industrial economy, Rerum Novarum in 1891, to Centesimus Annus, to Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical Laudato Si’ this past year, have grappled with the challenges of the market economy. There are few places in modern thought that rival the depth and insight of the Church’s moral teachings on the market economy.

“It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him,” Sanders said of the 6:00 AM meeting the following day. “I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”

Sanders said he told the Pope that “I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed,” according to an Associated Press report.

During an in-flight press conference on the return trip from Lesbos, Pope Francis commented on the meeting.

“This morning when I left, Sen. Sanders was there,” he said. “He knew I was leaving at that time, and I had the kindness to greet him and his wife and another couple who were with them.”

“When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more,” the Pope added. “This is good manners. It's called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.”


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  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Apr. 19, 2016 10:17 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis should have been courteous enough --concerned enough-- with the American people's election process, that he declined to be found in the hallway with one of the candidates. That would have been easy enough to arrange had he any real interest in being apolitical.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 19, 2016 7:34 AM ET USA

    Maybe I am being overly sensitive, but isn't it the job of reporters or spokesmen to inform the public that "nothing more" happened? By the Pope himself saying it, I get the feeling of an "in your face" attitude, as if the Pope was instructing us that he was staying within the "rules", the proper discipline, the recent tradition of not meddling in political affairs external to the Vatican. Did he really think it necessary to personally comment about a handshake with a non-diplomat U.S. senator?

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Apr. 18, 2016 7:00 PM ET USA

    Sanders didn't miss a trick indirectly pushing socialism as the "common good". The pope really needs to change his reading habits; I suggest he start with A. Smith, Wealth of Nations and work up to Milton Freidman. If that's too much, here's a shortcut: "“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” W. Churchill—House of Commons, 22 October 1945.

  • Posted by: loumiamo - Apr. 18, 2016 10:23 AM ET USA

    So much for Pope Francis's claim at the beginning of his pontificate that he would not let himself be used by politicians. Could it be that all the previous sycophants seeking an audience were just not Marxist enough to appeal to our Pope?