Pope on Meeting Bernie Sanders: It Was ‘Polite,’ Not ‘Political’

Francis Jokes If Someone Thinks Greeting Someone Is Meddling in Politics, ‘I Suggest He Find a Psychiatrist’

Briefing at Papal flight. Nov. 2015


“If someone thinks that to greet someone is to meddle in politics, I suggest he find a psychiatrist,” Pope Francis says.

The Holy Father jokingly made this statement during the press conference on his papal flight returning from the Greek Island of Lesbos Saturday, when asked by a journalist about his having met with US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Casa Santa Marta that morning.

“This morning, when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there, who had come to the congress of the Centesimus Annus Foundation. He knew that I was leaving at that time, and he had the politeness to greet me. I greeted him, shook his hand, his wife’s, and that of a couple that was with him, who were lodging at Santa Marta, because all the members taking part, except the two presidents (Correa and Morales), who I believe were lodging in their embassies, were all staying at Santa Marta.

“And when I came down, he introduced himself, he greeted me; we shook hands and nothing more. This is politeness; it is called politeness and not meddling in politics,” clarified the Pope.

“And if someone thinks that to greet someone is to meddle in politics, I suggest he find a psychiatrist! (laughing)”

Before leaving this morning for Lesbos, Pope Francis met Bernie Sanders, candidate of the Democratic Party in the primaries for the US presidential election who arrived Friday afternoon in the Vatican to take part in the International Conference on the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus. Organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences , the conference was also attended by the Presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa.

Pope Francis did not take part in the meeting, communicating in a message his regret at not being able to attend the event, given his preparations for today’s trip to the Island of Lesbos. “I realized yesterday that it would be complicated today given my trip to Lesbos, said the Pontiff in a text read by Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.

Present at the meeting in Casa Santa Marta, several sources report, were Sander’s wife, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy, Monsignor Sorondo, and US economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Confirmation of the meeting was given by Sanders himself who, meeting with the US press before embarking for New York, said,  “It was a real honor” to meet the Pope, calling him “one of the extraordinary figures not only of the today’s world, but of modern world history.”

Moreover, the Senator from Vermont said he expressed to the Pope his appreciation for “the incredible role he is having in the planet in addressing topics such as the necessity of an economy based on morality, not greed.”

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