Confusion after Vatican official criticizes Bernie’s ‘monumental discourtesy’

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Democratic US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a town-hall event in Philadelphia.
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Thomson Reuters

US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced on Friday he had accepted an invitation to the Vatican, saying his views on fighting income inequality were similar to those of Pope Francis.

“I am a big, big fan of the pope,” Sanders said in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s trying to inject this sense of morality into how we do economics … and we need that absolutely desperately.”

One Vatican official, however, seems to think a little differently about the manner in which the invitation was organized.

Margaret Archer, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (which is hosting the conference Sanders is set to speak at), said Sanders showed “monumental discourtesy” and reached out to obtain the invitation himself, according to Bloomberg.

“Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons,” Archer told Bloomberg over the phone. “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.”

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, called Archer’s statements, “categorically untrue,” according to Bloomberg.

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy, also rejected reports that Sanders invited himself, according to Reuters.

“I deny that. It was not that way,” Sorondo said, per Reuters.

“We are interested in having him because we have two presidents coming from Latin America, I thought it would be good to have an authoritative voice from North America,” Sorondo told Bloomberg.

The Pope’s office, however, distanced itself from Sanders’ visit. Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman told Italian news agency Ansa that the invitation was extended, “not by the pope but by the pontifical academy of social sciences,” according to Bloomberg.

“For the moment there is no expectation that there will also be a meeting with the pope,” Lombardi added, according to Bloomberg.

The Sanders campaign said in a statement that Sanders would attend a conference on social, economic, and environmental issues during the visit next Friday. Sanders, who has made fighting poverty a central issue of his campaign, said he would talk about how to create a moral economy during his visit.

The visit will come four days before the primary election in delegate-rich New York, a state that both Sanders and his rival Democrat Hillary Clinton are viewing as home turf and hoping to win.

The announcement of Sanders’ trip came as the pope called for a church that was less strict and more compassionate toward “imperfect” Catholics.

Sanders said he admired the pope for talking about the “worship of money, the greed that’s out there.”

“There are people who think that Bernie Sanders is radical,” Sanders said on MSNBC. “Read what the pope is writing.”

(Reuters reporting by Doina Chiacu and Megan Cassella; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott)