April 16, 2016, Friday — Bernie Meets Francis at 6 a.m. in the Domus Santa Marta as the Pope Leaves for Greece
A Brief Meeting Outside the Breakfast Room
In the end, Bernie Sanders met Pope Francis, briefly.
It happened at about 6 a.m. this morning, outside the dining room of the Domus Santa Marta, where the Pope lives, and it lasted for “about five minutes,” one onlooker said.
Then Pope Francis hurried out of the Vatican to catch his scheduled airplane for the island of Lesbos in Greece, where he is spending today.
“A real honor”
Pope Francis met Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, briefly this morning outside the breakfast room of the Domus Santa Marta, where the Pope lives.
Bernie and his wife Jane had both been invited to be guests for the night in the Domus.
They reportedly stayed on the same floor as the Pope.
The two were seen in the reception area, carrying their own bags.
Sanders advisor Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, also a guest in the Domus for the night — he frequently stays in the Domus when he attends conferences of the Holy See’s Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, where Bernie gave his 10-minute talk yesterday afternoon — was also present nearby, and estimated that the meeting lasted “for five minutes.”
There are no photos of the meeting.
“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,” Sanders told Ken Thomas of the Associated Press later in the morning. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”
Sanders said it was a brief meeting. “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.”
(more stories about this meeting below)
The Meaning of the Meeting
As I wrote two days ago, quoting a senior Vatican official, this meeting was not an endorsement of Bernie by Pope Francis. (link)
Indeed, its very nature — standing in the hotel foyer, at dawn, just before the Pope leaves for an important international journey — is clearly personal and private.
As the Vatican official told me the other day, “Even if the Pope did meet with him [Senator Sanders], it would not be for political reasons, but for pastoral reasons. The Pope is a pastor. In the end, we are all concerned about saving souls. A meeting would not be an endorsement of one candidate over another, not an encouragement, not that at all. It would be an opportunity to discuss things.”
And what “pastoral reasons” might Pope Francis have had? What concerns might he have about… the state of Bernie’s soul?
Bernie Sanders is not in favor of building walls.
Nor is he in favor of enormous gaps in income between the rich and the poor, which leave so many in fear on the 24th or 26th of the month, that they won’t be able to reach the end of the month with any money at all.
Nor is he in favor of poisoning our environment, of polluting our biosphere, harming future generations.
Nor is he in favor of sick people unable to receive proper health care.
And in holding these and other positions, Bernie is not far from the Christian position expressed so eloquently by Pope Francis in all of his teaching.
In his talk yesterday, Bernie quoted Pope Francis repeatedly. He said: “As Pope Francis has stated: ‘Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules.'”
And Bernie added: “We have made new idols.”
And he said: “Our very soul as a nation has suffered as the public lost faith in political and social institutions.”
So Bernie himself used the term “soul” in his talk yesterday.
Bernie and the Pope on Life Issues
But Bernie Sanders’ position on human life, that is, specifically, on the right to life, which means, on abortion, is one of the most radical “pro-choice ” positions of all the U.S. presidential candidates.
His position calls for allowing women to abort their babies up to the very moment of birth.
“I’ve been spending my political life fighting for the right of women to control her own body,” Sanders has said. “I have 100% voting record pro-choice voting record, and if elected president… [I will] continue to defend the woman’s right to choose.” Indeed, Sanders has been emphasizing that he is more in favor of abortion than his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. (link)
Pope Francis has been a defender of the weak, of the poor, of the innocent, and he has been a staunch defender of the most innocent of all — the unborn.
Francis’ recent letter Amoris Laetitia, on love in the family, emphasizes this “pro-life” position of the Pope.
What is this position that the Pope, and the Church, holds so strongly?
It is that every woman must truly “make a choice” during her pregnancy — a choice whether to nourish and care for the unborn child she bears, or not to so nourish and care for the child.
This does not mean either choice is easy.
It does not mean that there are not grave responsibilities that come with bearing a new human life.
It does not mean that Pope Francis and pro-life Catholics and Christians and men and women of good will are not aware that a woman can feel afraid, and alone, and in danger from the responsibility she faces for the life growing within her.
But it does mean that the choice involves the life of another human being, a growing human person, and that the choice she takes must take into account the fact that that other human life is now living in her, with her, through her, and depends upon her choice.
The essential belief of the Christian faith is that the power that redeems this fallen world is the power of self-sacrificial love.
This is the love that redeems.
Selfishness seems to be innate — we all seek to have “our share” and, perhaps, more than our share.
And yet, the world unfolds in a beautiful way, toward goodness, truth and holiness, when this selfishness is transcended, when this self-centeredness is overcome by the unselfishness of fathers and mothers, of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of brothers and sisters, of friends toward friends, of friends toward strangers (as the Pope is showing today on his journey to the island of Lesbos, crowded with thousands of homeless refugees).
Each of us owes to a mother the breath that we breathe, the life that we lead.
Pope Francis was the choice of his mother.
Bernie Sanders was the choice of his mother.
I was the choice of my mother.
You are the choice of your mother.
Throughout human history, the womb of the mother was regarded as the most sacred, and safe, of human spaces.
Every culture has sought to make mothers feel comfortable, safe, secure, in order that the offspring they bear may be comfortable, safe, secure.
Only in our lifetimes has the logic of “self-fulfillment” caused a tearing of the universal fabric, present from the beginning, of protection for the unborn.
Only in our time have entire nations, entire cultures, focused solely on the mothers, and their hopes and dreams for their personal career and lives, setting aside entirely the hopes and dreams, and rights, of the infants they are bearing.
This unprecedented shift in our collective attitude toward human life has marked our time, and future historians will consider it a distinguishing mark of our age.
We have truly been suffering “strong delusion,” unaware of the “silent scream” that occurs each time an infant’s life is taken.
This is the dark secret at the heart of our culture: we have turned against ourselves.
We are like madmen gnawing the flesh off of our own hands and arms.
And Bernie Sanders the other night, in his debate with Hillary Clinton was at pains to affirm that he is more “pro-choice” than Hillary. This, he seems to think, is the right path. This, he also seems to think, is the way to be elected.
And so Bernie met with Pope Francis.
And he is now telling the world about how proud he is that he had the meeting.
But might he not consider whether there was a message in the Pope’s decision to receive him, even if only for a minute, in the foyer of the Domus, with both of them, as it were, with suitcases in their hands, and planes to catch?
Pope Francis received Bernie.
But did Bernie receive Pope Francis?
The Pope left for Greece at Dawn
The Pope left at about dawn for Leonardi da Vinci airport for the island of Lesbos in Greece.
Bernie and his wife, soon joined by his four children and several grandchildren, went on a special early-morning tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, before leaving on a chartered jet from Rome to return to the United States.
The Bernie-Francis meeting was at approximately 6 a.m., because by 6:20 a.m. Francis had begun the 30-minute drive to Fiumicino airport. He arrived at Fiumicino at 6:50 a.m., got onto the aircraft at 6:52 a.m. and the aircraft was in the air at 7:18 a.m. He landed in Greece about two hours later, at about 9:05 a.m. (10:05 a.m. in Greece). (link)
The Pope in Greece
“It is a trip a bit different from the others,” the Pope told journalist on the plane with him. “On the apostolic journeys we go to do many things: the see the people, to talk… Also, there is the joy of meeting. This is a trip marked by sadness and this is important. it is a sad trip. We are going to meet the greatest human catastrophe since the Second World War. We are going, and we will see it, to so many people who are suffering, who don’t know where to go, who had to flee. And we are also going to a cemetery: the sea. So many people have drowned in it. I say it not to be bitter, not out of bitterness, but because also your work may transmit through your various media the state of mind with which i make this trip. Thank you for traveling with me.”
It was rumored this morning that Pope Francis had decided to bring 10 refugees with him to the Vatican when he returns from the Greek island this evening. It was said that members of three families had already been chosen randomly. The fact that there were empty seats on the plan on the flight from Rome to Greece led some to say that this scenario was likely, that the Pope would return with about 10 refugees.
Two Greek Orthodox patriarchs, one from Greece and one from Istanbul in Turkey, the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew (on the left), were already on the island, waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis. This gave the Pope’s trip an ecumenical dimension. The Pope has made closer relations with the Orthodox one of the cornerstones of his pontificate (link)
The Three Christian Leaders
Here is the English text of the joint declaration of these three leaders, Pope Francis of Rome, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and Archbishop Ieronymus of Athens.
We, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, have met on the Greek island of Lesvos to demonstrate our profound concern for the tragic situation of the numerous refugees, migrants and asylum seekers who have come to Europe fleeing from situations of conflict and, in many cases, daily threats to their survival.
World opinion cannot ignore the colossal humanitarian crisis created by the spread of violence and armed conflict, the persecution and displacement of religious and ethnic minorities, and the uprooting of families from their homes, in violation of their human dignity and their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The tragedy of forced migration and displacement affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity and an immediate practical commitment of resources.
From Lesvos, we appeal to the international community to respond with courage in facing this massive humanitarian crisis and its underlying causes, through diplomatic, political and charitable initiatives, and through cooperative efforts, both in the Middle East and in Europe.
As leaders of our respective Churches, we are one in our desire for peace and in our readiness to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation.
While acknowledging the efforts already being made to provide help and care to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, we call upon all political leaders to employ every means to ensure that individuals and communities, including Christians, remain in their homelands and enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security.
A broader international consensus and an assistance programme are urgently needed to uphold the rule of law, to defend fundamental human rights in this unsustainable situation, to protect minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling, to eliminate unsafe routes, such as those through the Aegean and the entire Mediterranean, and to develop safe resettlement procedures.
In this way we will be able to assist those countries directly engaged in meeting the needs of so many of our suffering brothers and sisters.
In particular, we express our solidarity with the people of Greece, who despite their own economic difficulties, have responded with generosity to this crisis.
Together we solemnly plead for an end to war and violence in the Middle East, a just and lasting peace and the honourable return of those forced to abandon their homes.
We ask religious communities to increase their efforts to receive, assist and protect refugees of all faiths, and that religious and civil relief services work to coordinate their initiatives.
For as long as the need exists, we urge all countries to extend temporary asylum, to offer refugee status to those who are eligible, to expand their relief efforts and to work with all men and women of good will for a prompt end to the conflicts in course.
Europe today faces one of its most serious humanitarian crises since the end of the Second World War.
To meet this grave challenge, we appeal to all followers of Christ to be mindful of the Lord’s words, on which we will one day be judged: “For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me… Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:35-36, 40).
For our part, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, we firmly and wholeheartedly resolve to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians.
We reaffirm our conviction that “reconciliation [among Christians] involves promoting social justice within and among all peoples… Together we will do our part towards giving migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers a humane reception in Europe” (Charta Oecumenica, 2001).
By defending the fundamental human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and the many marginalized people in our societies, we aim to fulfill the Churches’ mission of service to the world.
Our meeting today is meant to help bring courage and hope to those seeking refuge and to all those who welcome and assist them.
We urge the international community to make the protection of human lives a priority and, at every level, to support inclusive policies which extend to all religious communities.
The terrible situation of all those affected by the present humanitarian crisis, including so many of our Christian brothers and sisters, calls for our constant prayer.
Lesvos, 16 April 2016
+ Ieronymos II
And here are the remarks of Pope Francis to the refugees.
Remarks to Refugees
I have wanted to be with you today.
I want to tell you that you are not alone.
In these weeks and months, you have endured much suffering in your search for a better life.
Many of you felt forced to flee situations of conflict and persecution for the sake, above all, of your children, your little ones.
You have made great sacrifices for your families.
You know the pain of having left behind everything that is dear to you and – what is perhaps most difficult – not knowing what the future will bring.
Many others like you are also in camps or towns, waiting, hoping to build a new life on this continent.
I have come here with my brothers, Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos, simply to be with you and to hear your stories.
We have come to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution.
As people of faith, we wish to join our voices to speak out on your behalf.
We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity.
God created mankind to be one family; when any of our brothers and sisters suffer, we are all affected.
We all know from experience how easy it is for some to ignore other people’s suffering and even to exploit their vulnerability.
But we also know that these crises can bring out the very best in us.
You have seen this among yourselves and among the Greek people, who have generously responded to your needs amid their own difficulties.
You have also seen it in the many people, especially the young from throughout Europe and the world, who have come to help you.
Yes, so much more needs to be done!
But let us thank God that in our suffering he never leaves us alone.
There is always someone who can reach out and help us.
This is the message I want to leave with you today: do not lose hope!
The greatest gift we can offer one another is love: a merciful look, a readiness to listen and understand, a word of encouragement, a prayer.
May you share this gift with one another.
We Christians love to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, a foreigner who saw a man in need and immediately stopped to help.
For us, it is a story about God’s mercy which is meant for everyone, for God is the All-Merciful.
It is also a summons to show that same mercy to those in need.
May all our brothers and sisters on this continent, like the Good Samaritan, come to your aid in the spirit of fraternity, solidarity and respect for human dignity that has distinguished its long history.
Dear friends, may God bless all of you and, in a special way, your children, the elderly and all those who suffer in body and spirit!
I embrace all of you with affection. Upon you, and those who accompany you, I invoke his gifts of strength and peace.
Here are stories about the Popes meeting with Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders says he met with Pope Francis.
By Ken Thomas
Apr. 16, 2016 5:32 AM EDT
ROME (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said in an interview with The Associated Press that he met with Pope Francis, describing the meeting as a “real honor.”
Sanders said the meeting took place Saturday morning before the pope left for his one-day visit to Greece. He said he was honored by the meeting, and that he told the pope he appreciated the message that he is sending the world about the need to inject morality and justice into the world economy. Sanders said it’s a message he has been sending as well.
“We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning,” Sanders said. “It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.”
The Vermont senator is challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination and the meeting comes the weekend before Tuesday’s pivotal New York primary, a state with a significant number of Catholic voters. Clinton holds a 250-delegate lead over Sanders in the primaries and the senator is trying to string together a series of victories in upcoming contests to draw closer to the nomination.
Sanders said it was a brief meeting at the papal residence. “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 and wife, Jane, stayed overnight at the pope’s residence, the Domus Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican gardens, on the same floor as the pope. They were seen at the hotel reception, carrying their own bags.
Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a Sanders foreign policy adviser and adviser to the United Nations on climate change, said there were no photographs taken of the meeting.
The Vatican is loathe to get involved in electoral campaigns, and usually tries to avoid any perception of partisanship as far as the pope is concerned. Popes rarely travel to countries during the thick of political campaigns, knowing a papal photo op with the sitting head of state can be exploited for political ends.
However, Francis has been known to flout Vatican protocol, and the meeting with Sanders is evidence that his personal desires often trump Vatican diplomacy.
“His message is resonating with every religion on earth with people who have no religion and it is a message that says we have got to inject morality and justice into the global economy,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the meeting should not be viewed as the pope injecting himself into the campaign. “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. 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.”
Sachs said Sanders and his wife Jane met the pope in the foyer of the domus as the pope was leaving for Greece. The meeting lasted for about five minutes, Sachs said.
Sanders later joined his family, including some of his grandchildren, for a walking tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic shrines.
Sanders traveled to Rome to attend a Vatican conference on economic inequality and climate change. He is an admirer of the pope and has praised the pope’s views on poverty and the environment.
The trip gave Sanders a moment on the world stage, putting him alongside priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents. Sanders has been at a disadvantage during his campaign against Clinton, President Barack Obama’s former secretary of state, on issues of foreign policy but he was peppered with questions from academics and ecclesiastics during the meeting in a manner that might have been afforded a head of state.
The invitation to Sanders to address the Vatican conference raised eyebrows when it was announced last week and touched off allegations that the senator lobbied for the invitation.
But the chancellor for the pontifical academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, said he invited Sanders because he was the only U.S. presidential candidate who showed deep interest in the teachings of Francis.
Here is a story from ABC News.
Bernie Sanders confirmed to ABC News during an on-camera interview Saturday that he met privately with Pope Francis at 6 a.m. on Saturday, at the papal residence, Santa Marta.
“He is a beautiful man,” Sanders said. “I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him. It was very wonderful to meet him.”
Sanders was joined by his wife, and according to her, Pope Francis was joined by Argentine Bishop and Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. Jane is Catholic. She said off camera that “the trip was definitely worth it.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful added, “I just conveyed to him my admiration for the extraordinary work he is doing raising some of the most important issues facing our planet and the billions of people on the planet and injecting the need for morality in the global economy.”
Sanders, who often talks about his admiration for the Pope in speeches and his writing, said he believed Pope Francis was “one of the great leaders in modern world history.”
Sanders, who attended a conference on social, economic and environmental issues hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said Pope Francis conveyed his apologies for not making it to the conference last night but that he had complications plans for his upcoming trip to Greece today.
Columbia University Professor Jeff Sachs, who attended the conference and helped arrange Sanders’ trip, told ABC News he heard last night the meeting would take place.
Here is a story from the Washington Post. This story omits the news that Bernie and his wife actually spent the night in the Domus.
Bernie Sanders meets privately with Pope Francis
THE WASHINGTON POST
By Anne Gearan April 16 at 5:55 AM
ROME — U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders met privately with Pope Francis during his overnight trip here, his spokesman said.
The brief meeting took place at the papal residence early Saturday, according Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs.
“They discussed the issues that the senator raised, that the pope has raised so often, at the conference yesterday,” Briggs said, adding that there was no discussion of U.S. politics or Sanders’ candidacy.
“He said that there was radiance in his presence and that he was very honored and humbled to have the opportunity to meet with the pontiff.”
Sanders does not consider the meeting in any way an endorsement of his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Briggs said.
Under Vatican rules there were no photographs of the meeting because it took place at the papal residence, Briggs said.
A source inside the Vatican, speaking on condition of anonymity, also confirmed the meeting.
“It was a private meeting and was not supposed to become public,” the source said. “It had been planned for, and it happened.”
And the Pontifical Academy of Sciences confirmed the meeting via Twitter.
But Sanders’ advisers said there was no requirement for secrecy and that the senator was free to talk about the meeting, as he did in television interviews later Saturday.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University professor who advises Sanders and participated in the Vatican conference, attended the morning meeting. He said it had been planned for Friday evening but that the pope had been unable to attend because of preparations for a papal trip to Greece on Saturday.
“Senator Sanders began the conversations thanking the pope for this leadership, saying how inspired he was as senator by the pope’s moral vision and his bravery and leadership in the world on crucial issues, and how crucial it was for the pope to be speaking out on economic justice, for help for the marginalized and excluded, and that he was very grateful for that,” Sachs said.
Sanders’ wife Jane, a campaign adviser, also attended, Sachs said.
The Sanders campaign had been vague about the senator’s itinerary here following his address Friday to a Vatican conference. The reticence on his part and at the Vatican may be an attempt to avoid the perception that Francis is involving himself in American politics.
The meeting was unofficial and private because Sanders is not a head of state. Francis met officially with two South American heads of state who attended the same Vatican seminar on income inequality and economic justice.
Sanders was invited to attend and speak, and took an unusual break from the primary campaign trail to do so. He had said in a Washington Post interview last week that he admired Francis and hoped to meet him, but that nothing was set.
Sanders quoted Francis frequently in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and told reporters afterward that the pope has had enormous influence in airing issues of wealth disparity and climate change.
Francis left Rome later Saturday for Greece, where he is visiting migrants stuck on the island of Lesbos.
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What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.