US Democratic presidential candidate not expected to meet Pope Francis in Rome
53 minutes ago
Paddy Agnew In Rome
US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: He is expected to attend a small, invitation-only conference at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
If US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders thought that a trip to the Vatican tomorrow would result in a campaign boosting photo opportunity with Pope Francis, he may have to think again.
Sanders is expected to attend a small, invitation-only conference at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Called “Centesimus Annus 25 Years Later”, the conference is intended to be a reflection on the 1991 encyclical by Pope John Paul II, in which the Polish pope was critical of capitalism. Among those due to address the conference are Honduran cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, economist Jeffrey Sachs, and the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and his Peruvian counterpart Evo Morales.
The conference will not be attended, however, by Pope Francis, so there will be no chance of a photograph with the pontiff. And the Holy See says no meeting between the pope and Sanders is scheduled.
So then, what is Bernie Sanders, a man who calls himself a “not particularly religious” secular Jew, doing in the Holy See?
On the conference programme itself, he is scheduled to give a ten-minute address on Friday afternoon.
One senior, Rome-based diplomat suggests that his campaign advisors want to use his day in the Vatican to project the image of someone who, contrary to criticism, is comfortable on the world stage. Vatican insiders suggest that maybe the academy chancellor, Argentine bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, will, in the end, set up an encounter between the presidential candidate and the pope.
Spat Adding intrigue is a spat between Sanchez Sorondo and the academy’s president, British professor Margaret Archer.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Archer, appointed by Pope Francis in 2014, said Sanders had invited himself, “for obvious [electoral] reasons”, adding: “He may be going for the Catholic vote but this is not the Catholic vote and he should remember that and act accordingly – not that he will.”
Sanchez Sorondo contradicted Archer, saying that he had invited Sanders, telling CNN that the invitation should not be seen as an endorsement of the senator’s nomination. “We want to establish a dialogue between North America and South America so we thought to invite a [US] politician. The president of Bolivia will also be there,” he said.
Sanders has in the past praised Pope Francis, giving the impression that the two men might be on the same wavelength with regard to social justice and re-distribution of the world’s wealth.
Last autumn in a TV interview, he told Vatican press officer Fr Tom Rosica that Pope Francis “has come along in history at exactly the right moment . . . [because] we are living in a world where greed has become, for the wealthiest people, their own religion.”