Bernie Sanders stepped away from the New York campaign trail just four days before the state’s Democratic primary. The senator will spend less than one day in Rome, where he will be delivering a speech and a conference sponsored by the Vatican.
Sanders’ unusual departure comes at a time when he is trying to pull off a major upset in the state. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, will leave on Saturday for California to raise money. Clinton, as of Friday, has a substantial lead over Sanders in the polls. A recent poll from Thursday showed a 17-point lead over the Vermont senator.
Sanders headed straight to the airport Thursday evening after his debate with Hillary Clinton. The senator will arrive in Rome on Friday afternoon and is expected to head back to New York to continue his campaign on Saturday afternoon.
The senator will give a 10-minute speech to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences called “The Urgency of a Moral Economy”.
In an interview with the la Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, Sanders said, “I would like to discuss ideas and programs with Pope Francis if given the chance.” He added that he is not seeking an endorsement from the Pope, and that the event is not political.
Sanders’ advisors noted that while the event does take up valuable campaigning time, Sanders views the opportunity as something more important than politics. The candidate has expressed his admiration for the Pope, who holds similar stances on climate change and income inequality.
The Vatican has stated that there are no plans for Bernie Sanders to meet the Pope.