Sanders praised the pope’s remarks on ending poverty and economic inequality long before the pope arrived in the U.S. this September. Prior to the pope’s congressional address, Sanders celebrated the possibility of the pope addressing Congress.
In February this year, Sanders addressed the Senate, stating that the pope “shows great courage in bringing up issues that we rarely hear discussed here in the Congress.”
In the address, Sanders praises Pope Francis on his leadership. On multiple occasions, he read quotes from the pope to the Senate, publicly acknowledging his admiration for the religious leader.
“Pope Francis is clearly one of the important religious and moral leaders not only in the world today but in modern history,” he said. “He forces us to address some of the major issues facing humanity: war, income and wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, greed, the death penalty and other issues that too many prefer to ignore.”
Sanders read a quote from the pope: “‘Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.'”
Sanders continued by commenting on the quote: “My interpretation of what he is saying is that money cannot be an end in itself. The function of an economic system is not just to let the marketplace reign, and end up in a situation where a small number of people have incredible wealth, while so many people have virtually nothing.”
Sanders especially notes the pope’s comments about exclusion and marginalization when it comes to government austerity. He strongly disagrees with right-wing Republicans on the federal budget committee about their continuous cuts on public benefits like Medicare and Social Security.
He says that right-wing Republican austerity measures are “the Robin Hood principle in reverse. This is taking from the poor and working people, and giving it to the millionaires and billionaires.” Sanders instead argues for tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans.
Sanders welcomed the pope when he arrived, calling him “a brilliant man.” He voiced optimism at the thought of members of Congress taking to heart the pope’s remarks about inequality and poverty reduction.
Sanders has noted that income inequality has reached a point where the wealthiest in America are becoming richer while the impoverished are becoming poorer. He insists that “the pope is right in saying all of us must address the grotesque income and wealth inequality we are seeing throughout the world.”
Sanders urged lawmakers to think about the pope’s speech when discussing balancing the 2016 federal budget. “Give us a budget which works for the most vulnerable people in this country, which works for tens of millions of working families, and does not simply work for large campaign donors.”
Senator Sanders is currently in the running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
“I know that people think that Bernie Sanders is a radical… read what the pope is writing about because he is not only talking about poverty,” Sanders said, “he is getting to the heart of hyper capitalism, and he is saying, ‘Why as a society are we worshiping money?'”
– Michael Hopek