VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said attending a Vatican conference on Catholic social teaching did not represent a political endorsement of his run for higher office.
When asked about the controversy surrounding the invitation during a presidential campaign cycle and whether that translated into the Vatican somehow supporting his bid, he told the Italian daily La Repubblica, "No, that's not it. The Vatican isn't involved in that. The conference isn't a political event."
Sanders was one of about 35 economists, academics, church leaders and politicians invited to attend a conference April 15-16 dedicated to St. John Paul II's 1991 social encyclical "Centesimus Annus." The meeting was jointly sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Bolivian President Evo Morales were also invited to speak at the two-day conference.
In his 15-minute address, the Jewish senator extolled the Catholic Church's social teachings, saying few others "rival the depth and insight" the church displays in its moral teaching on the challenges of a market economy.
He extensively quoted from Pope Francis' many interventions, while also offering snippets of his own political platform, describing the effects deregulation, financial fraud and corporate campaign financing has had in the United States.
Despite the huge political, economic and moral challenges, he said, "Pope Francis himself is surely the world's greatest demonstration against such a surrender to despair and cynicism" and is an inspiration for building a global consensus for a better world.