WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced on Friday he had accepted an invitation to the Vatican, saying his views on fighting income equality were similar to those of Pope Francis.
"I am a big, big fan of the pope," Sanders said in an interview on MSNBC. "He's trying to inject this sense of morality into how we do economics ... and we need that absolutely desperately."
The Sanders campaign said in a statement that he would attend a conference on social, economic and environmental issues during the April 15 visit. Sanders, who has made fighting poverty a central issue of his campaign, said he would talk about how to create a moral economy during his visit.
The visit will come four days before the primary election in delegate-rich New York, a state that both Sanders and his rival Democrat Hillary Clinton are viewing as home turf and hoping to win.
The announcement of Sanders' trip came as the pope called for a church that was less strict and more compassionate toward "imperfect" Catholics.
Sanders said he admires the pope for talking about the "worship of money, the greed that's out there."
"There are people who think that Bernie Sanders is radical," Sanders said on MSNBC. "Read what the pope is writing.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Megan Cassella; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott)