Bernie Sanders’ Trip to Rome: Pushes for a 'Moral Economy,' Mobbed by Fans Outside Vatican Walls

Bernie Sanders spoke at a Vatican-hosted conference.

ByABC News
April 15, 2016, 4:47 PM

— -- Fresh from Thursday night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders landed in Rome today to speak at a Vatican-hosted conference.

In his speech to the conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Science, the Vermont senator focused on the “urgency of a moral economy.”

“The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time,” Sanders said. “It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.”

Touching on themes similar to those in the speeches he delivers on the campaign trail, Sanders talked about the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling which deemed that corporations are "people" and can give campaign donations to candidates. The ruling “has established a system in which billionaires can buy elections,” Sanders said, and the U.S. has “been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent.”

Sanders, who has been a vocal admirer of Pope Francis, mentioned the pontiff directly in his remarks: “I am told time and time again ... that a truly moral economy is beyond our reach. Yet Pope Francis himself is surely the world’s greatest demonstration against such a surrender to despair and cynicism.”

During a coffee break, Sanders exited the Vatican walls to address what became a mob scene of supporters and reporters.

The Vermont senator spoke briefly, but expressed enthusiasm to “have the opportunity to say a few words,” in Rome and alluded to the focus of his speech earlier today.

“In my country and around the world we are seeing a handful of very, very wealthy people become wealthier while most people are becoming poorer,” Sanders said about the need to create a moral economy not dictated by greed. “I have been enormously impressed by Pope Francis speaking out and his visionary views about creating a moral economy.”

He returned to the conference engage in a Q&A where other attendees asked him about state of American health care and education. Sanders spoke to the foreign dignitaries on the state of the U.S. economy and society.

Overall, the senator’s time in Italy will be less than 24 hours. Sanders didn’t go sightseeing in Rome, but his motorcade whisked him from the airport to the Vatican right by the ancient part of the city.