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9:29 AM PDT 4/8/2016 by Ariston Anderson
The presidential hopeful has accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to speak at a conference on April 15.
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to speak at the Vatican next week on April 15, at the Holy Father’s annual Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences conference. The appearance is just days before the New York primary on April 19.
The conference addresses current social, economic and environmental issues facing the planet. Sanders is expected to speak on climate change as well as creating an equal economy.
The Jewish senator from Vermont is a big fan of the pope and said in a statement he was “delighted” by the invitation.
“I think the Vatican has been aware of the fact that, in the many respects, the pope’s views and my views are very much related,” Sanders said in an interview with 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.”
While the pope is not one to make official endorsements, the Vatican has been unusually thrust into the U.S. election this year. Traveling back from a visit to Mexico, Pope Francis was asked about his views on Donald Trump.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” he said at the time.
Trump fired back that no religious leader should be allowed to question his faith.
While it is not clear if Sanders will be meeting with Pope Francis, any high-profile visit to the Vatican is a PR coup. The announcement was made the same day the pope released a letter urging priests to be more accepting of Catholics living in what it considers to be irregular situations: gays, lesbians and divorced Catholics.