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When Bernie Sanders met Pope Francis

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Well, it finally happened. The pope felt the Bern.

Against expectations, Pope Francis and  Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democrat candidate for U.S. president, met privately today in the Vatican hotel where the pontiff resides and where Sanders was staying as a guest.

Bernie Sanders was in Rome for the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences meeting to discuss his economic, environmental and moral concerns (as summed up in Sanders’own words during the press scrum that followed).

The Pontifical Academy’s meeting was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s Centisimus Annus, arguably the most pro-market  encyclical in the history of Catholic social teaching published in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum which also praised private property rights, the value of personal liberty, and likewise denounced Marxism on grounds of mistaken anthropology.

Sanders put his own socialist spin on Centesimus Annus while in Rome.

News reports say the meeting between Sanders and Francis only lasted for 5 minutes. According to a Reuters report published on Religion News Service:

Pope Francis met U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the Vatican on Saturday morning (April 16) and the two discussed the need for morality in the world economy before the pontiff left for a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos. Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs told Reuters that the meeting took place in the Vatican guesthouse where the pope lives and where Sanders had spent the night after addressing a Vatican conference on social justice. The Vatican had said that a meeting between the two was not planned, and Sanders said he did not expect to meet the pope during his trip.

What was the reaction from the avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, who exited the brief meeting “glowing” according an ABC television? Sanders, who shares Francis’ concern about economic inequality and opinion on climate change, told ABC:

He is a beautiful man. I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him….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.

The Acton Institute is hosting its own social doctrine conference next week in Rome, April 20th: “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“. It will celebrate the 125th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical and will surely contrast some the opinions  and content expressed by Sanders at the Vatican meeting. It can be followed on socia media via the hashtag #125onFreedom and will be available via livestream.

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Michael Severance

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