Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
“I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy,” Sanders said in a statement on Friday.
The April 15 trip, during which Sanders will attend an event hosted by the Vatican academic group the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, will happen four days before the New York primary, a contest considered crucial to Sanders's chances at the Democratic nomination.
Sanders discussed the invitation on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Friday morning, where he expressed some fundamental differences with the pope on issues such as gay rights and women's rights, but he said he overall has a deep admiration toward Pope Francis for “injecting a moral consequence into the economy” and for spotlighting the “idolatry of money.”
“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalization of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment,” Sanders continued. “That is our challenge in the United States and in the world.”
"That's kind of impressive," MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said.
“It is,” Sanders agreed, smiling. “People think Bernie Sanders is radical. Read what the Pope is writing.”
Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, criticized Sanders for politicizing the meeting and said that Sanders had invited himself.
“Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons,” Archer told Bloomberg. “I think in a sense 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.”
This was later refuted by Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and a Vatican official, who said that Sanders was invited.
“This is not true and she knows it,” Sorondo said of Archer's claim. “I invited him with her consensus.”
So, what really happened with Sanders's invitation? God only knows.
Update 11:37am CT, April 8: Added comment from Margaret Archer.
Correction: While Sanders implied that he would meet Pope Francis during his visit to the Vatican, that appears to be either inaccurate or at least unconfirmed. We have changed the headline to reflect the new information.