Sen. Bernie Sanders put the politics of the presidential campaign aside by sitting down with Pope Francis privately for five minutes. There were no cameras, no transcripts, and no press, as the Sanders/Francis meeting was clearly not a political endorsement.
Politico gave some details about the meeting:
The encounter was unannounced and there were no photographs taken. The Vatican press office had said in the days leading up to the conference that there was no meeting planned. The pope, a frequently-mentioned character in Sanders’ stump speech and campaign materials, was seen as unlikely to meet with Sanders due to his travel schedule.
The meeting in the foyer of the Domus of Santa Marta came about after the pope’s schedule meant he was unable to attend the conference Sanders was attending in Vatican City on Friday. At the time, he sent a hand-written note to conference attendees apologizing.
While Sanders was having dinner later on Friday night, he learned that the pope would like to meet before leaving for Greece.
Some advisers in the Sanders campaign have been worried about the Vatican trip taking the candidate off of the campaign trail days before a New York primary that could be viewed as make or break for Sanders. Political critics of the trip have suggested that Sanders was trying to give his presidential campaign a boost by appearing publicly with Pope Francis.
The reality is that Bernie Sanders motives weren’t that complicated. He admired Pope Francis and didn’t think he could pass up a chance to go to the Vatican-sponsored conference and meet him. Viewed from this perspective the trip was a reminder of how far a formerly Senator from Vermont has personally come in a relatively short period.
Bernie Sanders is 74 years old and has spent decades advocates for many of the same economic principles that Pope Francis often speaks about. The political reality is that his presidential campaign is winding down, and the current odds are against him winning the Democratic nomination.
If Bernie Sanders wants to go to Vatican City and maybe snag five private minutes with the pope, why not? Sen. Sanders has earned it. Sanders had a once in a lifetime chance to do something, and he took it.
Win or lose. Bernie Sanders has done a great service to the Democratic Party by mounting a competitive campaign. Passions are high among supporters of both campaigns, but some things like Sanders meeting privately with the pope have nothing to do with the primary.
It may cost him in New York on Tuesday, but props to Sen. Sanders for understanding that there is more to life than presidential campaigns.