Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., a U.S. presidential candidate, first row at right, speaks at a conference on Catholic social teaching at the Vatican April 15. The conference was dedicated to St. John Paul II's 1991 social encyclical "Centesimus Annus" and was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Institutute for Advanced Catholic Studies. At left in the first row is Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academy, who invited Sanders. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See VATICAN-ACADEMY-ECONOMICS-SANDERS April 15, 2016.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., a U.S. presidential candidate, first row at right, speaks at a conference on Catholic social teaching at the Vatican April 15 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The meeting had no political significance, Francis later said

Attending an event hosted by a Vatican academy on April 15, U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) provided a long reflection on Catholic social teaching as he sees it.

Sanders spoke at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s landmark social encyclical Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991). The Vermont senator commented: “With the fall of Communism, Pope John Paul II gave a clarion call for human freedom in its truest sense: freedom that defends the dignity of every person and that is always oriented towards the common good.”

The April 15-16 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which fosters dialogue between scientists, politicians and various experts.

“There are few places in modern thought that rival the depth and insight of the Church’s moral teachings on the market economy,” Sanders said in remarks to the conference. He cited Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (May 15, 1891) that described the challenges of “the enormous wealth of a few opposed to the poverty of the many.”

“We are now 25 years after the fall of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Yet we have to acknowledge that Pope John Paul’s warnings about the excesses of untrammeled finance were deeply prescient.”

He repeatedly cited Pope Francis. “Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules,” he said, citing the Pope’s words against the world’s “new idols.”

“Our challenge is mostly a moral one,” he said, “to redirect our efforts and vision to the common good.”

Sanders applauded parts of Church teaching, but some of his beliefs are at odds with Catholic belief, including strong support for abortion and the “LGBT” political cause.

Sanders Meets Francis

Bernie Sanders did meet briefly with Pope Francis at 6 a.m. the morning after he spoke at the conference, before the Pope’s departure for Greece. The senator and his family were readying to leave the Residence Santa Marta where they was staying in Vatican City — the same building in which the Pope lives — and exchanged a few words with Francis in the foyer as he, too, was departing.

“When I came down, he introduced himself, I greeted him with a handshake, and nothing more,” Francis said. “It’s common courtesy, this is called common courtesy. If someone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that they find a psychiatrist.”


Pope Francis Blesses Eyes of Young Girl Expected to Lose Sight

Pope Francis on April 6 blessed the eyes of an American girl who suffers from a genetic condition that will make her blind, in a visit to the Vatican described as a “miracle” by her father.

“We came here hoping for some amazing memories for Lizzy … but what we got, we’ve seen several miracles,” said her father, Steve Myers, after Francis blessed 5-year-old Lizzy.

The Myers family traveled from their Ohio home for the papal blessing, as part of a “bucket list” of experiences they wanted Lizzy to have before she loses her sight. Lizzy suffers from Usher syndrome Type II, which causes loss of hearing and sight, usually during the second decade of life.

Turkish Airlines offered the family a flight to a destination of the family’s choice.

Christine Myers, Lizzy’s mother, remembered the moment they chose the Eternal City: “When we said we were coming to Rome we told her, ‘That’s where the Pope lives.’ She wanted to knock on his door when we got here!”

Lizzy has grown up Catholic and was well aware of the “big guy in the white hat,” as her mother put it. When it came to meeting the pontiff, Lizzy gave him a piece of a meteorite from the observatory she had visited.

The Pope blessed Lizzy’s eyes after hearing her story. “He asked us to pray for him and said he would be praying for us,” Christine Myers said.

Steve Myers described the papal meeting as a powerful moment: “As soon as Pope Francis came up to where Lizzy was, a calm came over me. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Lizzy does not yet know she will go blind. “We want her to lead as normal a life as she can, without her worrying,” said Christine Myers. “One day we’ll have to tell her. I just don’t want that day to come anytime soon.”

—Rosie Scammell (RNS)

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