WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders will break from the campaign trail next week to attend a Vatican-hosted conference on social and environmental issues, his campaign announced on Friday (April 8).
Senator Sanders said he was "very moved" by the invitation to join the April 15 Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences meeting.
"I am a big, big fan of the Pope. Obviously there are areas where we disagree, on women's rights or gay rights, but he has played an unbelievable role, an unbelievable role of injecting a moral consequence into the economy," Sen Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC.
The leftist Vermont senator is a champion of the struggling working class, routinely railing against the influence of big banks and businesses.
"Pope Francis has made clear that we must overcome 'the globalization of indifference' in order to reduce economic inequalities, stop financial corruption and protect the natural environment," Sen Sanders said in a statement.
"That is our challenge in the United States and in the world."
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to promote the study and progress of economics, sociology, law and political science.
Other conference attendees will include Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales and leading academics, the organizers said.
The conference announcement comes as Sanders and his opponent Hillary Clinton trade testy barbs ahead of the key New York primary on April 19.
Frontrunner Clinton needs a commanding win in her adopted home state, while Sen Sanders, who was born in Brooklyn, hopes to maintain momentum coming off wins in seven of the last eight nomination contests.