Pope Francis had a brief meeting with presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Saturday after the Vermont senator addressed a Vatican conference on social justice.
Time.com reported that Sanders, who is Jewish, said that meeting the leader of the Roman Catholic faith “fulfilled a longtime wish.” Thankfully, they didn’t let a little thing like religion come between them, as Sanders called the pope “a beautiful man.” He added, “I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him.”
Naturally, Pope Francis insisted the meeting had nothing to do with politics. “When I came down, I greeted him, I shook his hand and nothing more. This is called good manners and it is not getting involved in politics,” the pope told reporters.
“If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that he look for a psychiatrist,” joked Pope Francis — and yes, His Holiness makes jokes.
Sanders told the Associated Press that it was a “real honor” to meet Pope Francis. “I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history.” The duo are closely aligned on issues like economic justice and climate change.
“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 told ABC News.
Pope Francis was grateful that Sanders accepted the invitation to speak at the Vatican, and he has previously suggested that the senator’s Republican rival Donald Trump is “not Christian” because of his campaign message about deporting immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
The meeting came as a last-minute surprise to Sanders, who was told on Friday that Pope Francis would be unable to meet with him due to a scheduling conflict — an explanation that our Hollywood readers should recognize.
The fact that it happened was not only good for Sanders, but also for his campaign, since it fell just days before Tuesday’s Democratic party primary in New York, where polls say he is trailing Hillary Clinton.
Sanders’ wife was present at the papal meeting, as the couple spent Friday night at the Vatican guest house.