(CN) – Sen. Bernie Sanders told attendees at a Vatican conference on Friday that the challenge facing the planet are “not mainly technological or even financial.”
Instead, he said, they are mostly moral, and the time has come “to redirect our efforts and vision to the common good.”
Sanders arrived in Rome just hours after Thursday night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He was one of several speakers invited to the conference organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Science.
The event is commemorating the 25th anniversary of “Centesimus Annus,” a document authored by Pope John Paul II on economics and social justice in the aftermath of the Cold War.
In his prepared remarks, Sanders called “Centesimus Annus” and “Laudato Si’,” an encyclical in which Pope Francis critiqued consumerism, irresponsible development and lack of concern for the effects of climate change, “powerful, eloquent and hopeful messages of this possibility.”
“It is up to us to learn from them, and to move boldly toward the common good in our time,” Sanders said in his prepared remarks, a copy of which was released by his campaign Friday morning.
Although Sanders made no direct reference to his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, the majors themes of his campaign did make it into his text.
“Inexplicably, the United States political system doubled down on this reckless financial deregulation, when the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of deeply misguided decisions, unleashed an unprecedented flow of money into American politics,” the Vermont senator said. “These decisions culminated in the infamous Citizen United case, which opened the financial spigots for huge campaign donations by billionaires and large corporations to turn the U.S. political system to their narrow and greedy advantage.”
Sanders said Citizens United established a system in which billionaires can buy elections in the United States.
“Rather than an economy aimed at the common good, we have been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent, who get richer and richer as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind,” he said.
Sanders continued: “The billionaires and banks have reaped the returns of their campaign investments, in the form of special tax privileges, imbalanced trade agreements that favor investors over workers, and that even give multinational companies extra-judicial power over governments that are trying to regulate them.”
Returning to the philosophies of Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, Sanders said these developments have had far more dire consequence than leaving people vulnerable to the effects of financial bubbles and other uncertainties.
” Our very soul as a nation has suffered as the public lost faith in political and social institutions,” he said. “As Pope Francis has stated: ‘Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules.’ And the Pope has also stated: ‘We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.'”
“Pope Francis has called on the world to say ‘No to a financial system that rules rather than serves’ … He stated plainly and powerfully that the role of wealth and resources in a moral economy must be that of servant, not master,” Sanders added.
The senator was quick to point out that the ills he was referring to are not the United States’ alone.
“The excesses of the unregulated global economy have caused even more damage in the developing countries,” Sanders said. “They suffer not only from the boom-bust cycles on Wall Street, but from a world economy that puts profits over pollution, oil companies over climate safety, and arms trade over peace.”
“The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world,” Sanders said.
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ motorcade enters the Vatican, Friday, April 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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