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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage" presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at the Vatican on social justice and the world economy.
In a 10-minute speech at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the senator from Vermont discussed the Church's history of grappling "the challenges of the market economy," beginning with Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical "Rerum Novarum," which "highlighted [the] economic issues and challenges ... that continue to haunt us today."
Sanders went on to cite Pope St. John Paul II's encyclical "Centesimus annus," whose anniversary was being commemorated by the academy's conference. The senator asserted its message, which focused on contemporary political and economic issues, resonates to this day and that "Pope John Paul's warnings about the excesses of untrammeled finance were deeply prescient," as "speculation, illicit financial flows, environmental destruction, and the weakening of the rights of workers" are far more prevalent today than they were a quarter of a decade ago.
He continued, noting Pope Francis has also "warned us and the world" of the current problems facing the world economy:
Pope Francis has called on the world to say: "No to a financial system that rules rather than serves" in "Evangelii Gaudium." And he called upon financial executives and political leaders to pursue financial reform that is informed by ethical considerations. He stated plainly and powerfully that the role of wealth and resources in a moral economy must be that of servant, not master.
"The widening gaps between the rich and poor, the desperation of the marginalized, the power of corporations over politics" is a worldwide phenomenon, Sanders maintained. "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. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world."
Sanders spotlighted Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" for its declarations on a range of topics from "poverty to climate change to health care to protection of biodiversity."
He concluded with reiterating the "moral" nature of the challenges facing the world in terms of social justice and encouraged learning from the mistakes of the past in order to "move boldly toward the common good."
The days preceding the speech had been fraught with controversy in light of the senator's current campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, with opponents fearing the speech was merely a political tool. The Sanders campaign denied the criticism, stating the Democratic presidential candidate would not "give a political speech."
In a statement Thursday prior to the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate, Tad Devine, Sanders' senior strategic adviser, asserted that the Vermont senator "is going to go and talk about an issue that he cares deeply about, which is a moral economy in the world, and dealing with the tremendous income and inequality not just in America but everywhere. Bernie is a tremendous admirer of Pope Francis ... and he really appreciates the opportunity to speak about this on the world stage."
Prior to today's speech, contradictory reports emerged over who had invited Sanders to speak in Rome and whether an invitation had even been extended. The news broke with a statement released by Sanders last week claiming he was "delighted to have been invited by the Vatican to a meeting on restoring social justice and environmental sustainability to the world economy."
The same day a conflicting report came from Margaret Archer, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, who asserted it was Sanders himself who "made the first move two or three days ago," showing "monumental discourtesy" in breaching standard protocol for Vatican invitation requests.
"Sanders made the first move, for the obvious reasons," Archer claims. "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."
A claim hours later from a senior Vatican official denied Archer's claim. Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo stated it "was not that way" and asserted he himself had invited the presidential candidate, as Rome thought it "would be good to have an authoritative voice from North America" speak on the topics of economy and social justice.
Papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi also confirmed Sanders had been invited.