Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders announced on Friday that he would be venturing to Rome and Vatican City this week to speak at a scholarly conference held by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an organization in Vatican City started by Pope John Paul II in the 90s.
It is a well known fact that Senator Sanders is Jewish, making his journey to the headquarters of Catholicism surprising but, in my opinion, exciting. Up until yesterday afternoon, there was disagreement between Sanders and a spokesperson from the Pontifical Academy as to who made the initial move – did Sanders pursue attending the conference or was he invited? While members of his campaign claim the latter, other sources said he was the one to reach out to the academy. It was finally concluded that Bernie had contacted the Vatican previously, but that the chancellor of the academy did invite him to this specific event.
Many find it likely that this is Sanders' attempt to gain the Catholic vote. While that may be the case, I wonder how effective it will be considering Bernie is not meeting Pope Francis, as far as the public knows. It's important to note here that the Pope is not endorsing Bernie, though the world would be baffled if he did. Either way, being able to speak at a conference alongside an elite group of scholars is an opportunity anyone would take.
It seems clear to me that speaking at this conference must have some political benefit for the campaign considering Bernie is leaving the states just four days before the New York primary rather than remaining there to campaign further. Some believe Bernie's venture to Italy is insincere but, while it is probably politically-driven, his genuine respect for Pope Francis dates back to September where Bernie discussed the Pope in an interview. He has stated that, despite disagreeing with the Pope's view on women's rights and gay marriage, he feels the Pope has positively impacted the world by "injecting a moral consequence into the economy."
What do you think? is this a manipulative political move, or is it something to be excited about? Is it a waste of Bernie's time to abandon New York just days before a primary or is it worth it in pursuit of the Catholic vote? It's an interesting move without a doubt, and I'm dying to see how it all pans out.