Vatican City, Apr 15: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a global call to action at the Vatican on Friday to address "immoral and unsustainable" wealth inequality and poverty and warn of the consequences to future generations if solutions are not found.
He cited Pope Francis and St John Paul II repeatedly during his speech to the Vatican conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of a landmark teaching document from John Paul on social and economic justice after the Cold War.
Sanders arrived in Rome hours after yesterday night's New York debate, saying the opportunity to address the Vatican conference was too meaningful to pass up. The roughly 24-hour visit precedes Tuesday's crucial New York primary, which Sanders must do well in to maintain any viable challenge against Clinton.
The Vermont senator told the audience of priests, bishops, academics and two South American presidents that rather than a world economy that looks out for the common good, "we have been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent, who get richer and richer as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind."
Sanders warned that youth around the world are no longer satisfied with the status quo, which includes "corrupt and broken politics and an economy of stark inequality and injustice."
"They are not satisfied with the destruction of our environment by a fossil fuel industry whose greed has put short term profits ahead of climate change and the future of our planet," he said.
"They are calling out for a return to fairness; for an economy that defends the common good by ensuring that every person, rich or poor, has access to quality health care, nutrition and education."
He sat next to the other main guest of honor at the Vatican: Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose is renowned for his anti-imperialist, socialist rhetoric.
As he walked through Vatican City's Perugino gate, Sanders was greeted about two dozen supporters, some of whom carried signs bearing Sanders' name. The senator told reporters that he was honored to address the conference and admired Francis' message on the economy and the environment.
"I know that it's taking me away from the campaign trail for a day but when I received this information it was so moving to me that it was something that I could just simply not refuse to attend," he said.
Pope Francis apologized that he couldn't personally greet participants at the Vatican conference. No meeting with Sanders was expected.