Sanders Welcomes Pope Francis Visit to Washington

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed Pope Francis’ plan this fall to address a special joint session of Congress.

The visit to Washington will mark the first-ever speech to Congress by any leader of the world's Roman Catholics. The senator said he hopes members of Congress listen carefully to the pontiff’s message about poverty and economic inequality.

“Pope Francis has shown great courage in raising issues that we rarely hear discussed,” Sanders said in a Senate floor speech. “The leader of the Catholic church is raising profound issues. It’s important that we listen to what he has said.”

Sanders cited, for example, the pope’s observation to diplomats at the Vatican in 2013 that “we have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

The senator also quoted the pope on a discredited economic theory that still has adherents in Washington. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and nai?ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system,” the pope said on Nov. 24, 2013, in his first apostolic message.

Sanders said the pontiff’s observations are relevant to what’s happening today in the United States, where poverty is almost at an all-time high and more than 99 percent of all new income since the financial collapse in 2008 has gone to the top 1 percent.

The pope’s Sept. 24 visit to Washington, D.C., will occur during a U.S. tour which also includes a speech at the United Nations in New York and a massive rally for families in Philadelphia.