Pope discussed moral economy with Bernie Sanders before Greece trip

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Sanders at Vatican: 'Time to Create Moral Economy'

VATICAN CITY, April 16 - Pope Francis met U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the Vatican on Saturday morning and the two discussed the need for morality in the world economy before the pontiff left for a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos.

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs told Reuters that the meeting took place in the Vatican guesthouse where the pope lives and where Sanders had spent the night after addressing a Vatican conference on social justice.

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The Vatican had said that a meeting between the two was not planned, and Sanders said he did not expect to meet the pope during his trip.

"He is a beautiful man," Sanders said in an interview with ABC News after the meeting. "I am not a Catholic, but there is a radiance that comes from him."

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Bernie Sanders meets Pope Francis at the Vatican
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Sachs said Sanders, who was accompanied by his wife, spoke with the pope for about five minutes. Sachs, his wife, and Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, were also in the room.

"I just conveyed to him my admiration for the extraordinary work he is doing raising some of the most important issues facing our planet and the billions of people on the planet and injecting the need for morality in the global economy," Sanders told ABC.

The Democratic hopeful from Vermont has campaigned on a promise to rein in corporate power and level the economic playing field for working and lower-income Americans whom he says have been left behind, a message echoing that of the pope.

When Sachs, who has advised the United Nations on climate change, was asked if the meeting could be interpreted as political, he said: "This was absolutely not political. This is a senator who for decades has been speaking about the moral economy."

Bernie Sanders through the years:

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Pope discussed moral economy with Bernie Sanders before Greece trip
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during an event in Iowa Falls, Iowa, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. With a week to go until the Iowa caucuses and the Democratic presidential race there in a virtual dead heat, Hillary Clinton and Sanders are mapping out divergent paths toward winning the first votes of the nomination process. Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Washington, UNITED STATES: Newly-elected senators meet with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R), D-NV, in Washington, DC 13 November 2006. From left are: Senator-elect James Webb, D-VA, Senator-elect Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Senator-elect Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Reid. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
US Congressman Elliot Engel (L) takes pictures next to US Senator Bernie Sanders after being dressed as Bouale leaders by public notaries of the Kouadioyaokro village, 150 km from Abidjan, 09 November 2008. US Senators Tom Harkin and Bernie Sanders visit comes ahead of a July 2008 certification deadline to ensure cocoa heading to the United States -- the third largest importer of Ivorian cocoa -- has not been produced with child labour. AFP PHOTO/ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - APRIL 25: Potential Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (R) (I-VT) delivers remarks at the South Carolina Democratic Party state convention April 25, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Sanders joined former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee in speaking to the convention. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in a 'Don't Trade Our Future' march organized by the group Campaign for America's Future April 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. The event was part of the Populism 2015 Conference which is conducting their conference with the theme 'Building a Movement for People and the Planet.' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, greets supporters during a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Sanders said he had attracted 200,000 donors as of mid-June and his campaign had raised $8.3 million online through June 17, according to FEC filings by ActBlue, the fundraising platform that he and some other left-leaning candidates and causes use. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORTLAND, ME - JULY 6: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Cross Insurance Arena while campaigning in the Democratic presidential primary. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Supporters hold up signs at a campaign rally for Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Sanders said he had attracted 200,000 donors as of mid-June and his campaign had raised $8.3 million online through June 17, according to FEC filings by ActBlue, the fundraising platform that he and some other left-leaning candidates and causes use. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORTLAND, ME - JULY 6: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Cross Insurance Arena while campaigning in the Democratic presidential primary. Sen. Bernie Sanders greets supporters after speaking in Portland. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 18: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to the crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center July 18, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke on his central issues of income inequality, job creation, controlling climate change, quality affordable education and getting big money out of politics, to more than 11,000 people attending. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)
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The meeting came just days before Tuesday's Democratic party primary in New York, where polls say he is trailing Hillary Clinton. After he won seven of the last eight state contests, a loss in Sanders' home state would give front-runner Clinton a boost toward the party's presidential nomination.

Sanders, the Brooklyn-born son of Polish Jewish immigrants, has said the trip was not a pitch for the Catholic vote but a testament to his admiration for the pontiff.

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