“Among the candidates running for president this year, there is only one true “Christian” and he happens to be a Jew,” described Dr. Paul Veliyathil, Hospice Chaplain with Vitas Hospice, on the invitation being extended to Se. Bernie Sanders to attend a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a scholarly association in Vatican City . “I am delighted that Bernie Sanders will be attending this conference at the Vatican. He is the most compassionate politician–which by the way is an oxymoron–I have seen in a long time. His compassion for the poor and the dispossesed is comparable to that of the Pope and indeed commendable coming from a politician. With much in common with Francis, with a white robe and a mitre, Bernie could be indistinguishable from the Pope,” said the Kerala-born, Florida-based Indian American.
Dr. Veliyathil was responding to the announcement by the campaign office of Senator Bernie Sanders that the Democratic Party nominee would travel to Rome this month to give a high-profile speech at the Vatican. The Sanders campaign made the announcement on Friday, April 8th that Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said he would take a break from campaigning in New York, just days before the April 19 primary there, to attend a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a scholarly association in Vatican City that was established by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
Another prominent Indian American, Dr. Thomas Alapatt, President of the New Jersey Chapter of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) had a different take on the invitation by the Vatican to Sen. Sanders. “Pope Francis is newly elected and his views are valuable in the religious matter,” says Dr. Alapatt. While acknowledging that Pope is the most respected person in the Catholic Church, Dr. Alapatt, says, “Pope is liberal in social aspects but very conservative in family matters. Perhaps he was brought up with liberal views in social aspects. Personally speaking, the Religious Congretation, to which the Pope belongs, is known to be very modern with liberal views. The general view among Catholics here is that the Pope should stay out of American politics.” On the invitation to Sen. Sanders, the Indian American physician says, Catholics in US will not go with the idea of Bernie Sanders such as liberalization of everything is not going to be good for the nation. “Traditionally Catholics are for educating all, helping the poor, needy, the sick and helpless. I am not seeing Sanders with all these ideas.”
Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a senior papal official and the academy’s chancellor, told Reuters that it was his idea to invite the US Senator. Sanders in an interview had said, Pope Francis had played a “profound role in raising consciousness throughout the world, not just within the Catholic community but within all communities. To me, this a source of real pride and excitement that I have been invited to speak to a major conference at the Vatican on how we can create a world economy that is moral and how we address the massive levels of wealth and income inequality that exist around the world, how we deal with unemployment, how we deal with poverty and how we create an economy that works for all people rather than the few,” Sanders said.
Sanders said in an interview that he admired the pope for speaking about income inequality and the need for people to help one another. “He has played an unbelievable role, an unbelievable role of injecting a moral consequence into the economy,” said Sanders, who would become the first Jewish president in the United States if elected. “He is talking about the idolatry of money, the worship of money, the greed that’s out there, how our whole culture is based on: ‘I need more and more and more.’”