WASHINGTON: Bernie Sanders held a private meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday morning, the US Democratic presidential hopeful told CNN and ABC News.
Sanders told CNN that he wanted to let Francis know “how appreciative I was of the extraordinary role he is playing throughout the world in raising consciousness about massive levels of income and wealth inequality, greed such that the top one percent now owns more wealth globally than the bottom 99 per cent.”
Francis “is a beautiful man,” Sanders separately told ABC.
“I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him. It was very wonderful to meet him,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ wife Jane is Catholic, but he describes himself as a secular Jew.
“I just conveyed to him my admiration for the extraordinary work he is doing raising some of the most important issues facing our planet and the billions of people on the planet and injecting the need for morality in the global economy,” Sanders told ABC.
Jane Sanders told ABC that the Sanders couple, Francis, and the Argentine head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, were at the meeting at the pope’s residence at Santa Marta.
Politico Europe, quoting Sanders’ adviser Jeffrey Sachs, said that the meeting lasted about five minutes and was held in the building foyer. There were no photographs.
Sanders on CNN praised the pope’s position on needing to create “a moral economy” and needing to “transform our energy system so as to prevent climate change from wreaking havoc on this planet.”
However “it is no secret that my view on women’s rights, on gay rights, on contraception is different than the church’s,” he told CNN.
“But in this world what we have to do is work with people when we can work with them,” Sanders said.
The US candidate traveled to Rome at the invitation of the Pontifical Academy, a kind of Vatican think-tank on social, economic and environmental issues, for a Friday conference.
Sanders spoke to Francis just before the pope traveled to meet migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos, the frontline island in Europe’s migration crisis.
The self-described Democratic Socialist US candidate said that Francis apologized for not being able to make it to the Friday conference due to conflicts with planning for his Saturday trip.