NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton is a “great admirer” of Pope Francis and hopes that when he addresses Congress for the first time later this month he will “prick the conscience of everyone,” the Democratic presidential candidate told ABC News’ David Muir.
Muir, who recently sat down with the pontiff for a first-ever virtual town hall with Americans, asked Clinton during an exclusive interview in New York City on Tuesday what she makes of some of the radical changes Francis is making to the church, specifically his recent revisions to the process by which Catholics may annul marriages.
“I am not a Catholic, but I am a great admirer of the pope,” Clinton, who is a Methodist, said. “I think that what he’s trying to do is take this venerable institution, the Roman Catholic Church, and really, once again, place it on a firm foundation of scriptures of Christ’s words.”
(Clinton, who has never met Pope Francis, also remarked to Muir that she is “jealous” of his meeting with him and that “I wish I could’ve been there.”)
Later this month, Pope Francis, 78, will visit the United States for the first time. He will makes stops in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., where he will deliver an address to a joint-meeting of Congress.
Muir asked Clinton if given the partisan divide in the United States, and the pope’s tendency not to hold back, he could make people feel uncomfortable.
“I think leaders of conscience, particularly leaders of faith, who say what they believe in their heart, and what they are called to say, often make people uncomfortable. And we need that. We need more of that,” Clinton said.
“You know, the kind of mean-spiritedness that I see too much of in our politics, turning our backs on the poor. Trying to prevent people from, you know, having the opportunities they need to have by cutting programs. By making college literally unaffordable for hardworking, low income kids. There's a lot that's wrong in America. And it's not just wrong politically, it's really wrong in our hearts.”
Clinton, the democratic presidential front-runner, told Muir that she hopes Pope Francis' address will ultimately help “summon that heart of America.”
“I hope what the pope does is to prick the conscience of everyone. I'm not talking right, left, Republican, Democrat. All of us have to do better.” Clinton said. “I hope the pope really calls us to do that.”
Clinton’s interview, her first national television interview with an evening news anchor since launching her campaign five months ago, comes after a rocky summer where she faced growing scrutiny over her use of a private email account and dropping poll numbers.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 53 percent of Americans now see Clinton unfavorably, up 8 points since midsummer.
Despite the challenges, Clinton, who in the interview said she is “sorry” for using her a personal email account while Secretary of State, told Muir she is still having fun.
“It’s hard, but it’s fun,” Clinton said. “Most of the things that are hard in life are fun.”