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Bernie Sanders and his family took a whirlwind trip to the Vatican in Rome yesterday. Ostensibly he went there to speak at a small conference to spread his message of "moral economics" to a wider audience, giving Bernie more credibility as a world leader. Bernie's spokesperson said he discussed such matters with Pope Francis, head of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and someone Bernie seems to admire.
But the political price of going all that way to make a 15 minute speech struck many as hypocritical - more like a mini-break vacation for Bernie's Catholic wife than a sensible plan.
From the Daily Mail UK
Bernie Sanders traveled to Rome for the Vatican conference on Friday
He was joined by his wife, ten family members, a group of campaign staff, secret service detail and members of the press
The total group of what is believed to be below 50, flew in a chartered Delta 767 for their trip which can seat between 211 and 261 people
Sanders's wife, who's Catholic, and four grandchildren came on the trip
A 767 like Sanders' that is flying 4,435 miles from New York to Rome uses approximately 16,596 gallons of fuel
A 767 like Hypocrite Sanders is flying 4,435 miles from New York to Rome uses approximately 16,596 gallons of fuel https://t.co/doPicmEyYa— RoseFromPhila (@RoseFromPhila) April 16, 2016
But what really happened there in Rome? By the time Bernie and company were headed back home yesterday, confusion reigned. It wasn't as bad as "Romney Shambles" when Mitt went to Israel, but there were questions a-plenty about how the Bernie team were spinning the trip compared to what actually happened.
"I'm very excited to talk about the need for a moral economy." - Bernie outside #BernieAtTheVatican #BernieInRome pic.twitter.com/aC1BoGgSB2— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) April 15, 2016
.@BernieSanders talking about income inequality and college tuition inside Vatican #21hrsinRome #bernieinRome pic.twitter.com/QTtlgSdiaO— MaryAlice Parks (@maryaliceparks) April 15, 2016
From ABC News
Fresh from Thursday night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders landed in Rome today to speak at a Vatican-hosted conference.
In his speech to the conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, the Vermont senator focused on the “urgency of a moral economy.”
“The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time,” Sanders said. “It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.”
. . . During a coffee break, Sanders exited the Vatican walls to address what became a mob scene of supporters and reporters.
Sanders just wrapped a roughly 15 minute speech at the Vatican that touched on many of his main themes: Wall St, inequality, Citizens United— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) April 15, 2016
I'm told the conference was just given a message from the Pope, confirming apologetically that he would not be able to attend today.— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) April 15, 2016
This apologetic message from the Pope, saying he couldn't make the conference, was a hand-written note shown to the attendees— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) April 15, 2016
Here is the hand-written note from Pope Francis that was shown to conference attendees pic.twitter.com/59OgjazPXZ— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) April 15, 2016
From CBS News
"When I received the invitation -- I know it's taking me away from the campaign trail for a day. It was so moving to me that it was something I simply could not refuse to attend," he said.
In reality, Sanders just brought the campaign trail to Rome. In a speech there, he hit many of the same themes, calling for a more just economy, and often using the pope's own words.
Bishop Marcello Sanchez Sorondo, the man who invited Sanders to a usually obscure conference at an academy advising the Pope on issues like social inequality, says getting involved in political movements "is important."
But there was confusion over Bernie's invitation from the beginning, with various spokespeople for Bernie at odds with the Vatican, which sought to distance the Pope from American politics. Just like the Kim Davis debacle with the Pope a few months ago, the Vatican's story differed from the way it was being pitched by supporters. And lower-level Vatican officials seemed interested in stirring the political pot much more than the Pope himself.
For instance, as early as April 8th, the Vatican hinted that Bernie himself had angled for the invitation, which they considered "discourteous."
From The Hill
"It was an invitation from the Vatican," Sanders said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I was very moved by the invitation."
But the senior Vatican official, Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said it was Sanders who made "the first move" to attend the event.
. . . “I think in a sense 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," Archer added.
However, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of academy, formally invited Sanders to attend the meeting in a letter dated March 30 and provided to The Hill by Sanders' campaign.
“We are interested in having him because we have two presidents coming from Latin America, I thought it would be good to have an authoritative voice from North America,” Sanchez Sorondo told Bloomberg, speaking from New York.
Look at the difference between the way the "meeting with the Pope" was pitched yesterday compared to what the Pope says actually happened. The Pope was getting ready to leave for Greece and sent his regrets to all the members of the conference. But Bernie was determined to have the face time with Pontifex and lurked outside his rooms as he was leaving before receiving a "handshake." That was somehow enlarged into a "meeting" by a spokesperson named Michael Shank, and the Sanders camp in general.
From USA Today
"We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning," Sanders told the Associated Press. "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, who is Jewish, said he has long been a "big fan" of the pope's teachings on economic justice.
Sanders, in the thick of the presidential race, had to break off his primary campaigning and fly all night to get to the Vatican, where he addressed a Vatican conference on social justice and spent the night at the Vatican guest house where Francis lives.
The pope, who made a brief trip to Greece on Saturday to visit a refugee camp, spoke to reporters on the plane home about his encounter with the American politician. "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 said, according to Reuters. "If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that he look for a psychiatrist," he said, laughing.
From "Bernie's Roman Holiday" by Daniel Schultz
The whole Bernie-goes-to-Rome thing has been a shambles, to be honest. The campaign got Sanders a back-door invite which surprised and irritated the academy president, not to mention stepping on the roll-out of Amoris Laetitia, the Pope’s new teaching on the family. Then they did it again, taking a private jet to Rome to speak on the idolatry of money in the middle of a make-it-or-break-it primary in New York, and arriving in Rome on a day when the Vatican would much rather be talking about Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew in Lesbos about the European refugee crisis.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Sanders showed up with his family in tow, undercutting the high-minded moral message he was supposed to be delivering, and Oh, sweet Jesus, did they really put his logo on a picture of the Pope?! All this in service of a message that won’t impress or inspire anybody who wasn’t going to vote for Sanders to begin with.
I suppose that was the goal all along, though: to maintain Sanders’ inspirational image. Either that, or they’re making some kind of bizarre, desperate play for the New York Catholic vote. Or again, maybe they were hoping a bird would land on his podium again, which would do about as much good. At this point, I just don’t know what to think.
To See the Sanders Meeting as Political
Bernie Sanders describes meeting with Pope Francis as a "real honor": https://t.co/dtxnWs36tb— The Associated Press (@AP) April 16, 2016
Confirmed: @BernieSanders met with @Pontifex at his Vatican residence this morning, before Pope Francis took off for Greece.— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) April 16, 2016
Full context of the Pope's quotes on the plane about his brief encounter with Sanders:https://t.co/TuZ5daamj7 pic.twitter.com/fo936eCN7G— AlGiordano (@AlGiordano) April 16, 2016
Bernie Sanders says he met with Pope Francis during his visit to Vatican City https://t.co/6COcrrnPu1 https://t.co/R2Sj6NuVc9— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 16, 2016
@CNNPolitics— BernTheFacts (@CheckingTheMath) April 16, 2016
He met the Pope for Five Minutes
The meeting with Kim Davis was 15 minutes
The Non-Meeting was turned into a political ad!
Bernie walking a fine line on sort of claiming the endorsement of the Pope https://t.co/XGeLMcUMog pic.twitter.com/CsVTmkFTZV— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 15, 2016
Reuters rewrite on Sanders Pope visit is something. Discussion of moral economy changed to handshake, nothing more. pic.twitter.com/CY3w7eCi5Q— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) April 16, 2016
@sarahkendzior And here is where Reuters got their info from, #Sanders' spokesmen: pic.twitter.com/oyIGyFpXnk— CherokeeNative (@CherokeeNative3) April 16, 2016
Facts do matter. Bernie & Sachs claimed a "meeting" & conversation happened. Pope smacked them silly for the lie. https://t.co/QJT97Y8LjI— AlGiordano (@AlGiordano) April 16, 2016
@AlGiordano @MLNY @rross9077 I also wouldn't be suprised if we hear that a couple of Vatican officials are reassigned in a few weeks.— Irene Borutta (@IreneBorutta) April 16, 2016
The guy campaigning against money in politics really seems to like the money in politics #BernieAtTheVatican pic.twitter.com/tBPKNFoaMh— Honey 17011 (@Honey17011) April 16, 2016
1. Tell Americans Pope invited you— Cornelia (@PaladinCornelia) April 16, 2016
2. Fly family to Rome spending $320,000 of campaign money
3. Ambush Pope as he's leaving breakfast room
Bernie has now surpassed Clark Griswold & Mr. Bean for leaving behind biggest disaster in Europe. https://t.co/Vy8PjPRmcF— AlGiordano (@AlGiordano) April 16, 2016
@AlGiordano I found a photo of Bernie Sanders waiting to meet the Pope this morning. pic.twitter.com/mc2bxqBdmf— Volguus Zildrohar (@eclecticbrotha) April 16, 2016
Like some stage-door Johnny. https://t.co/uf1Ffep91K— Lee in Iowa (@Lee_in_Iowa) April 16, 2016
With five big primaries on the 26th, rumor is that @SenSanders may be headed next to Tibet to commune with the Dalai Lama.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) April 16, 2016
The pope is essentially the head of a government. Why would he summon a presidential candidate? That would be interfering in an election.— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 16, 2016
You're now calling the pope a liar, and saying you know he secretly summoned a US presidential candidate. Mkay. https://t.co/CqogXpyY70— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 16, 2016
At least the food on the plane was great!
.@BernieSanders is about to take off for NY. We've been served a menu for the 9 hour chartered flight he's taking pic.twitter.com/1nR15R3aQQ— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) April 16, 2016
"Senator Sanders, did you annotate the Pope's speech on economic inequality before or after the lobster sliders?" pic.twitter.com/AV0BWCBXZO— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) April 16, 2016
The Revolution will be delicious. https://t.co/0rhQOHnGYS— Cheryl G (@steakhousegirl) April 16, 2016