Bernie Sanders has accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to visit the Vatican next week. The Vermont senator will participate in an April 15 conference on social, economic and environmental issues. It is not yet certain whether the two will meet in private but if they do, the two socialists will surely have much to talk about.
Pope Francis is not your typical Bishop of Rome. The 79-year-old Jesuit has been outspoken about helping the poor and has been praised for criticizing the “worship of money.”
Bernie Sanders is not your everyday Democratic presidential candidate. The 74-year-old Brooklyn-born son of Polish-Jewish immigrants has made tackling income inequality a central issue of his campaign. Sanders has railed against the greed of the billionaire class and the recklessness of Wall Street.
Forgetting religious labels for a moment, the two septuagenarians are kindred spirits. The Pontiff’s message about the moral imperative for economic equality has struck a chord among Catholics hungry for a spiritual leader who actually preaches the gospel of Christ. Francis is a true progressive trying to take a 2000-year-old institution into the 21st century.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has struck a nerve among progressive Democrats with his message of a rigged economic and political system. He has amassed a large following, particularly among young people, in his long-shot bid against front-runner rival, Hillary Clinton.
“I am a big, big fan of the Pope,” said Sanders in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s trying to inject this sense of morality into how we do economics … and we need that absolutely desperately.” If elected, Sanders would be the first Jewish U.S. president.
The Pope’s invitation comes at a critical time for Sanders. The New York and Pennsylvania primaries will be held only a few days after Sanders’ visit with the Pope. Francis’ popularity among Catholics and non-Catholics alike should help Sanders and keep the Bernie momentum going now that the primary season heads into the home stretch.
“I am really excited about meeting with the Holy Father,” said Sanders. “I just hope he doesn’t try to convert me!”
OK. I made up that last quote!
But these two wise, grandfatherly men, who speak of social and economic justice, are what this world greatly needs more of.