Bernie Sanders issued a global call to action at the Vatican on Friday calling for “a return to fairness” in business and political spheres.
The Democratic senator from Vermont cited Pope Francis and St. John Paul II repeatedly during his speech to the Vatican conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of a landmark document from John Paul on social and economic justice after the Cold War.
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Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered his speech on social and economic inequality sitting next to the other main guest of honour at the Vatican: Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose is renowned for his anti-imperialist, socialist rhetoric.
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Sanders arrived about 20 minutes late for his speech Friday and launched right into it as soon as he took his seat on the dias next to Morales, an Aymara Indian who came to power championing Bolivia’s 36 indigenous groups.
Earlier in the day, Morales met with Pope Francis and gave him an eyebrow raising gift: three books on the health benefits of coca leaf, the raw material of cocaine that is chewed throughout the Andes as a mild stimulant and an antidote to altitude sickness.
Sanders’ received a warm round of applause after his speech on the “Urgency of a Moral Economy.” In addition to Morales, participants at the conference included academics, priests, bishops, as well as Francis’ closest adviser, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and the Ecuadoran president, Rafael Correa.
Sanders arrived in Rome hours after wrapping up a debate in New York Thursday night, saying the opportunity to address the Vatican conference was too meaningful to pass up.
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The roughly 24-hour visit precedes Tuesday’s crucial New York primary, which Sanders must do well in to maintain any viable challenge against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
He told the audience of priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents that rather than a world economy that looks out for the common good, “we have been left with an economy operated for the top one percent, who get richer and richer as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind.”