U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will take a brief break from the presidential campaign trail to attend a conference hosted by the Vatican next week. Sanders was invited by the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting a gathering on social, economic, and environmental issues, according to a report from the Washington Post.
Sanders plans to depart for Rome immediately after the April 14 debate with Hillary Clinton, just days before a crucial primary in New York.
“I am grateful to the Vatican for inviting me to talk about an issue that is very dear to my heart, which is how we create a moral economy that works for all of the people rather than just the top one percent,” Sanders said. “I will also in my remarks be addressing the planetary crisis of climate change and the moral imperative to make sure we leave this planet in a way that is healthy and habitable for future generations.”
To clarify, Bernie Sanders is not currently listed as a speaker at the event.
Social and economic morality has not only been a cornerstone of Sanders' campaign, but it has been at the heart of the Pope's message to Catholics around the world. So, it is no surprise that Sanders is a fan of the Pope.
“I think the Vatican has been aware of the fact that, in many respects, the pope’s views and my views are very much related,” the senator said. “He has talked in an almost unprecedented way about the need to address income and wealth inequality, poverty and to combat the greed that we’re seeing all over this world, which is doing so much harm to so many people. … For me, it is an extraordinary honor to receive this invitation.”
The Pope's office, according to additional reports, is trying to keep Francis out of U.S. presidential politics, so it is unclear whether or not the two will actually meet at any point during the visit.
According to an October report from Gallup, Pope Francis' favorability in the U.S. reached a high of 70 percent after he visited the U.S., and he has broad appeal across ideological and religious demographics. It remains to be seen what this visit might do to Bernie Sanders' appeal in a hotly contested Democratic contest -- especially among Catholics.
Important note: Nearly two-thirds of the religious population in New York State and New York City are Catholic.