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Sanders Courts Catholics, But Won’t Meet Pope

He's not really off campaign trail in Rome ahead of primaries in heavily Catholic states

Sanders is heading to Rome. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sanders is heading to Rome. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ trip to Rome comes before a host of presidential primaries in Catholic-heavy states, giving the Vermont independent and avowedly non-organized religious type a way to connect with millions of people he might not otherwise have. Sanders is jetting off to Italy after Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn, right before Tuesday’s crucial New York primary. But he will not be meeting with Pope Francis, a Vatican spokesman has said, and was never scheduled to do so.  

The pontiff’s focus on economic inequality and the environment match up well with Sanders’ own, though the candidate’s views of abortion and same-sex marriage do not, of course. The senator, who is Jewish and is not known to be particularly religious, is attending an academic conference marking the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s economic encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Those attending will discuss global economic, political and cultural changes since then that the church needs to address.  

Guess he missed his shot to see Francis in person last September, when the pope addressed Congress?  

“I would be kicking myself forever if I did not seize the opportunity,” Sanders told the Washington Post .  

Perhaps especially given that in New York, 31 percent of the adult population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent Religious Landscape Study .  

New Yorkers have the primary calendar to themselves on April 19, but one week later, several states with significant adult Catholic populations vote: Rhode Island (42 percent), Connecticut (33 percent), Pennsylvania (24 percent), Delaware (22 percent), and Maryland (15 percent).  

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