Bernie Sanders Met With Pope Francis, So That Break From Campaigning Was Totally Worth It

Despite initial reports that the pontiff would be unable to meet, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday morning shortly before the pontiff left to visit refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. Sanders, who'd taken a short hiatus from campaigning in New York to speak at a conference on social and economic issues, said the Pope met briefly with him and his wife at the papal residence, but emphasized the meeting was not political and did not represent an endorsement.

"It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him," Sanders told the AP about his five-minute meeting with the Pope. "I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history. 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 has long been drawing comparisons between the signature message of his presidential campaign and the Pope's efforts to make tackling poverty and inequality global issues, and Saturday was no different. "The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life," Sanders said told the AP. "And I am just very much appreciated the fact that the pope in many ways has been raising these issues in a global way in the sense that I have been trying to raise them in the United States."

The two men share similar opinions on a range of issues aside from economic inequality, including unemployment, climate change, the need for a more moral economy, and the importance of political engagement in driving change. The Vermont senator has repeatedly declared himself a fan of Pope Francis' efforts to highlight such issues.

Although debate over how he landed an invitation largely overshadowed his actual presence at the conference, Sanders bemoaned the failure of the global market economy in his speech to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on Friday, saying that "at a time when so few have so much, and so many have so little, we must reject the foundations of this contemporary economy as immoral and unsustainable."

Unexpected moments seem par for the course for the Sanders campaign: his virtual tie in Iowa amid criticisms he was unelectable; his surprise win in Michigan amid charges his momentum had flagged; the bird who interrupted his Portland rally in a moment his supporters turned into free campaign propaganda. Sanders' whirlwind Vatican visit seems to have followed a similar course of defying the odds.