Pope Francis Creates Strange Bedfellows Among Presidential Candidates

Politicians attempt to use the pontiff's historic visit for their own gain.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who is also Catholic, disagrees with the pope on Cuba, too. But on ABC News’ “The Week” Sunday, he drew a distinction between doctrinal and theological matters, on which he said he agreed with Francis “100 percent,” and the Pope’s political opinions, which he said "we are free to disagree with.”

Pope Francis does not fit onto the left-right spectrum of U.S. politics, analysts said. Instead, they said, he tries to rise above the fray with a message that brings the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings to those it has not traditionally reached.

“The Pope is not coming to play booster to one side or another in political debates,” Stephen White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington think tank, told ABC News. “He’s coming as a pastor … meeting his large American flock.”

But in a presidential race with a large field of candidates striving to differentiate themselves from one another, some vied to make their mark ahead of the pope’s six-day, three-city visit to the United States, which began Tuesday.

“Pope Francis has forcefully reminded us that greed, and the worship of money, is not what human existence should be about,” Sanders, who was raised Jewish, tweeted.

For seven of the candidates who are Catholic -- six Republicans and one Democrat -- the pope’s visit perhaps means more to their religious than political creed.

Others shared that sentiment.

“I think he’ll restart the conversation,” Christopher Hale, the executive director of the left-leaning Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told ABC News as he waited to greet the pope Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Francis hopes preaching the gospel will encourage political leaders to get to the dirty work of finding solutions, according to observers.

“He rises above the politics, but he doesn’t want to be separate from the politics,” Hale said. “Pope Francis has said before, ‘A good Catholic meddles in politics.’”

The pope may be the rare figure who can transcend the vitriol of D.C. politics, analysts said.

“There’s almost a disarming spontaneity in which he doesn't care about managing perception,” Chad Pecknold, an associate professor of systematic theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told ABC News. “There’s no spin.”

ABC News’ Jessica Hopper and Adam Desiderio contributed reporting to this article.

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