“It was a real honor for my wife and I to spend some time with him,” the senator told The Associated Press on Saturday morning during an interview at a hotel rooftop overlooking St. Peter’s Square. “He is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”
The meeting occurred at Domus Santa Marta, the pope’s residence. The senator and his wife, Jane, were overnight guests there after attending a conference on Friday at the Vatican on economic inequality and climate change.
“I told him that I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed,” Sanders told AP.
The meeting occurred before the pontiff departed for a trip to Greece to highlight the refugee crisis.
Also present at the meeting were Bishop Sanchez Soronda, who invited Sanders to the Vatican, and Jeffrey Sachs, a renowned American economist and adviser to Sanders.
On Friday, Sanders spoke at a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The high-level meeting marked the 25th anniversary of an important encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, which called for an economy of dignity, social justice and environmental sustainability.
The two-day trip to Rome and Vatican City was a break from the presidential campaign trail.
Sanders is on a winning streak and this week drew 27,000 supporters to a massive rally in Washington Square Park ahead of Tuesday’s New York presidential primary election.
Even in Rome Sanders encountered enthusiastic supporters. Backers bearing hand-made signs welcomed him as he drove through a gate to enter the Vatican. “Rome is Berning,” one sign said.
To read and watch more about Sanders meeting with Pope Francis, click here and here and here.
To read the senator’s prepared text at the Vatican conference, click here.