Bernie and Pope Francis team up: Sanders set to speak at the Vatican on economic and social issues

Sanders accepted an invitation from the Vatican and will leave the campaign trail days before the New York primary

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published April 8, 2016 12:51PM (EDT)

Bernie Sanders   (AP/Elaine Thompson)
Bernie Sanders (AP/Elaine Thompson)

Surprise - Bernie Sanders is a big fan of the Pope and now he's headed to the Vatican.

On Friday, the Sanders campaign announced that the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate had accepted an invitation from the Vatican to attend a conference on social, economic and environmental issues.

“I am a big, big fan of the Pope," Sanders, who would be the first Jewish U.S. president, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," confirming news that he will leave the campaign trail after next week's CNN debate in Brooklyn to attend the conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. "I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy," Sanders said in a statement.

Sanders is set to speak on April 15, days before the crucial April 19 New York primary. It is unclear if Sanders will be meeting with Pope Francis, but the self-described Democratic Socialist expressed his admiration for the beloved Pontiff.

"Obviously there are areas where we disagree on women’s rights or gay rights,” Sanders told MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski on Friday, before adding, "There are people who think that Bernie Sanders is radical—read what the Pope is writing.”

“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,” he explained further to the Washington Post. “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.”

Other notable attendees of the Vatican's conference include global economist and Sanders adviser Jeffery Sachs, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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