THE BLOG
09/28/2015 08:05 am ET Updated Sep 28, 2016

Does Pope Francis's U.S. Visit Favor Any Presidential Candidate?

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pope Francis's overarching message to the American people, far from politically neutral, is in sync with the political platform of the only Jewish candidate for president - Bernie Sanders. Let's take a look out how the major themes addressed by the head of the Catholic Church align the most not with any of the Catholic candidates but with the sole Jewish one.

Immigration - The rights of immigrants, particularly those from the pope's Latin America, to a life of dignity and opportunity was at the top of Francis's American agenda. In addition to a pastoral concern for his fellow Latinos, the Argentine pontiff knows that the future of the U.S. Church is likely a Latino one. 38% of American Catholics are Latino. Sanders, like Hillary Clinton, endorses a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Led by Donald Trump, who calls for a wall on the Mexican border and deportation, Republican candidates have recently become even more hardline on the issue.

Diplomacy - One of the hallmarks of Francis's inchoate papacy has been the role of international peacemaker. In fact, he flew directly to the U.S. from Cuba where he celebrated his role of chief architect of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two historical adversaries. The Peacemaker Pontiff has also endorsed the nuclear treaty with Iran, which Sanders and Clinton have both endorsed. While both Democratic candidates also agree with the pope on the need to lift the trade embargo on Cuba, Sanders is not the international interventionist that Clinton is. The Vermont senator opposed the disastrous Iraq War while many Democrats, including Clinton, endorsed it.

The Environment - The Latin American pontiff also prominently wore his hat of Eco-Pope during his U.S. visit, making sustainable development the centerpiece of his address to the United Nations. With an entire encyclical on the Christian imperative to cherish and protect mother earth, Francis urged both Americans and the international community to take urgent action aimed at promoting sustainable development. Sanders's positions are much more in line with the pope's perspective than Clinton's. He opposes the Keystone pipeline and arctic and offshore drilling while supporting an increase in renewable power and providing tax breaks as an incentive.

The Death Penalty and Prison Reform - The U.S. leads the world in the percentage of its citizens under lock and key, and of course many are incarcerated on drug-related charges. In his speech to Congress the Pope of Mercy reiterated his opposition to the death penalty and belief in rehabilitation. "I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes." Dramatically underscoring his message, Francis visited a Philadelphia prison where he embraced inmates and denounced a penal system that only punishes without offering opportunities for rehabilitation. Sanders is the only candidate who has long opposed to the death penalty and also has the strongest record of supporting alternative sentencing and rehabilitation instead of building more prisons, which has become a profitable industry lately. Clinton seems to be moving in Sanders's direction recently but for most of her career has been more of a "tough on crime" politician, supporting California's failed Three Strikes law back in the mid-1990s.

The Common Good and The Poor - The real crux of the message of the People's Pope to Americans was the Christian mandate to be of service our sisters and brothers, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. Though not a socialist, Francis has been very critical of the global capitalist system, which he blames for creating millions of 'throwaway' people who are excluded from meaningful participation in society. Of all the candidates, Sanders is the only one who echoes the pope's criticisms and calls for a more equitable American society devoid of the shocking concentration of wealth and income and growing gap between the rich and poor. His stances on public education, healthcare, corporate taxation, tax reform and workers' rights are far more in sync with Pope Francis than any of his political rivals, including Clinton who is supported by significant corporate interests.

The Family - The first New World pope sees the traditional nuclear family as a "factory of hope" and advocates policy that preserves it, much to the chagrin of those who'd like to see him accept gay marriage. While defense of the traditional family would seem to align the pontiff with Republican candidates, most of whom oppose same-sex unions, it isn't so clear cut. Some of the greatest pressure on American families is financial, related to the skyrocketing costs of a college education, health care, and daycare. More than other candidates, Sanders advocates policies that would relieve growing financial threats to American families.

Francis Bump - Of course the Latin American leader of the Catholic Church did speak to other important issues during his historical visit, such as religious freedom, but none were as salient during his trip as the ones laid out above. One of the more memorable moments of his first visit to New York was the interfaith service at Ground Zero, which included a rabbi and an imam, among others. For a pope who never ceases to amaze it shouldn't be surprising that his overarching message delivered on American soil most reflects that of the only Jewish candidate - Bernie Sanders.