After some will-he-or-won’t-he intrigue, Bernie Sanders finally did get his meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday morning in Vatican City. Although the presidential hopeful was seemingly ecstatic about the very brief encounter, the pontiff did his best to play it down, characterizing it as pretty much a quick hello. “When I came down, I greeted them, shook their hands and nothing more,” the pope told reporters. “This is good manners. It’s called good manners and not getting mixed up in politics. If anyone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, they should see a psychiatrist.”
Sanders, on the other hand, said the hallway encounter amounted to “an extraordinary moment,” adding that he “enjoyed the opportunity to chat with him.” After their brief encounter, the presidential hopeful was filled with praise for the leader who has done precious little to tackle the rampant child sex abuse perpetrated by members of the institution he heads and has repeatedly talked about the need to treat gays and lesbians like second-class citizens.
“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 said. No photographs were taken of the encounter and Sanders declined to say what the pope told him.
The senator from Vermont was at the Vatican days before the crucial New York primary on Tuesday to attend a conference on social, economic, and environmental issues. “The issues that I talked about yesterday at the conference, as you well know, are issues that I have been talking about not just throughout this campaign but throughout my political life,” Sanders said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The Republican Party frontrunner was decidedly unimpressed with Sanders’ brief meeting with the pope. “Five minutes sounds like ‘Try and get me in to see him so I don’t get myself embarrassed before I come back to New York,’” Donald Trump said on Fox News. “So a five-minute visit, you cannot do much in a five-minute—after you say ‘hello,’ there’s no time left.”