-- Directly following his Thursday evening debate with Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders traveled from New York City to Rome on an overnight flight to attend a Vatican-hosted conference on the urgency of building a “moral economy."
The Vermont senator was joined by all four of his children and four grandchildren, as well as his wife Jane. A small group of staff, Secret Service detail, and members of the press were also accompanying him for the trip on a chartered plane.
Sanders is expected to land midday on Friday and address the conference around 4 p.m. local time. Other speakers for the conference include former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa and climate change activist and professor Jeffrey Sachs.
The first international trip for Sanders comes just days before the New York state primary.
Sanders’s senior strategist Tad Devine said even if the senator came up short in New York, he would not regret the senator’s decision to take the trip.
"He is not going to give a political speech," Devine said Thursday evening before CNN’s debate, "he is going to go and talk about an issue that he cares deeply about, which is a moral economy in the world, and dealing with the tremendous income and inequality not just in America but everywhere. Bernie is a tremendous admirer of Pope Francis...and he really appreciates the opportunity to speak about this on the world stage.”
Although Sanders and Pope Francis disagree on a number of social issues, Sanders often talks about his admiration of the pontiff, especially on issues of climate change, caring for the poor, and what the two men view as a growing idolatry of money in societies around the world.
The trip was organized and paid for by Sanders’ campaign.
Sanders' communications director, Michael Briggs, joked with reporters as the plane boarded that the senator was still in the process of writing his speech on his go-to yellow legal paper, and was planning on writing during the flight.
All and all, the group will spend fewer than 22 hours on the ground in Rome, and will be departing Saturday for a weekend of campaign events back in New York City.