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Bernie Sanders Accepts Pope’s Invitation to Visit Vatican City

Trip will come shortly before Democratic contests in states like Pennsylvania, which has a large Catholic population

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has accepted the Pope’s invitation to visit Vatican City, and he will be traveling there next week.

According to Reuters, during his stay, Sanders will give a speech on moral economy on April 15.

“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.”

During a press conference later, Sanders told reporters that he hopes to meet Pope Francis.

“That is not yet clear, but that it something I very much would like to do,” he said. “The Pope’s schedule is determined by the Vatican but I would certainly be enthusiastic about that. … I think there is a possibility but that has not been scheduled.”

The news comes on the same day that the Pope made headlines for sending out a call for church officials to be more forgiving toward Catholics who have obtained a divorce and for the fair treatment and respect of the gay community.

The 79-year-old Pope Francis has been an advocate for the poor, and Sanders said Friday that he admires the pontiff for addressing the “worship of money, the greed that’s out there.” Sanders himself has made poverty a core issue of his campaign.

The invitation to the Vatican comes at a good time for the Democratic candidate, who wants to expand his reach ahead of various contests this month, including in states like Pennsylvania, which has a huge Catholic population. Moreover, his trip will take place four days before the primary election in New York.

Over the past week, Sanders and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton questioned each other’s qualifications for the presidency. During a rally on Thursday, Sanders went after Clinton and called her “unqualified,” citing a Washington Post headline as proof that Hillary started the problem by attacking his own qualifications.