Bernie Sanders accused of 'going for Catholic vote' amid confusion over Vatican invite

Peter Yeung
Saturday 09 April 2016 12:22
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DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 15: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wipes sweat from his forehead during an interview at Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 15: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wipes sweat from his forehead during an interview at Iowa State Fair on August 15, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa

Bernie Sanders been accused by a papal official of "going for the Catholic vote", amid confusion over whether he was invited to a conference by the Vatican.

Mr Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful, announced on Friday he had been asked to speak at an event in Rome.

“I am delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy,” Mr Sanders said in a statement.

“Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome ‘the globalisation of indifference’ in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment."

But Professor Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting the conference, claimed to know nothing about invitation.

“The president of the academy organising this event has not been contacted with monumental discourtesy,” Ms Archer told Bloomberg, referring to herself.

She also suggested the Vermont senator was using the opportunity for political gain, adding: “Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons. 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 Mr Sanders, said in a statement that Professor Archer’s comments were “categorically untrue”. Mr Briggs added: “The invitation came to the senator from the Vatican.”

Mr Sanders, who is Jewish, was invited by Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the pontifical academy, an autonomous institution that receives funding from the Holy See but is not officially part of it.

Mr Sorondo wrote in a letter last month: "On behalf of the President, Professor Margaret Archer, the Organizers, and as Chancellor, I am very happy to invite you to attend the meeting on 'Centesimus Annus: 25 Years Later.'

The conference, organised by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, will be held on April 15 – just days before the crucial New York primary, in which Mr Sanders is hoping to upset his rival Hillary Clinton in her home state.

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