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Bernie Sanders to Travel to the Vatican, Hopes to Meet Pope

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders talks to reporters in New York City, April 8, 2016.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has accepted an invitation to visit the Vatican next week, he announced Friday.

Sanders will deliver a speech on how to create a moral economy at a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on April 15, just four days ahead of the New York primary. The academy is a kind of research institution set up by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

“On economic issues, on issues of poverty and income and wealth inequality, the issues of making sure we address the needs of the poorest people on this planet, this is something that the pope and I are very much on the same page," Sanders told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

“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. That is our challenge in the United States and in the world,” Sanders said in a statement.

The Jewish presidential candidate is a long-time admirer of Pope Francis and the pontiff's attention to wealth inequality and social justice. Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs said if the opportunity arises, the candidate "would be delighted to meet with the pope."

The pending visit to the Vatican ahead of the New York primary may increase Sanders’ appeal to a broader Catholic audience.

The Reverend Thomas Reese, an analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, told AP that the invitation should not be misconstrued as an endorsement from the pope. “Certainly the last thing Pope Francis wants to do is get involved in American presidential politics,” Reese said.