Less than 24 hours removed from his debate against Hillary Clinton in New York, Bernie Sanders found himself in Rome, Italy. The senator from Vermont spoke at a Vatican event on Friday, and focused on income inequality, a topic championed by Pope Francis.

Vatican "Feeling the Bern"

Sanders arrived in Italy earlier Friday morning and made his way to a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

While not getting to meet the pontiff in person, Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a top aide to Francis, was in attendance and a read a message from the pope. While speaking to reporters outside of the event, Sanders praised Francis.

"Our very soul as a nation has suffered as the public lost faith in political and social institutions," Sanders said in his speech.

The popular United States senator made a point to note that searching for the "common good" in closing the income gap was essential for the moral good of the people.

"Our challenge is mostly a moral one, to redirect our efforts and vision to the common good," he said.

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Democratic Party

Sanders was criticized for his trip to the Vatican, especially during a heated election with the New York primary only days away, but said it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.

Clarification

When the news broke last week that Sanders was invited to speak at the Vatican, conflicting reports followed that questioned the validity of the invitation. Pro-Hillary Clinton blogs flooded social media, accusing Sanders of inviting himself to the Vatican, but those partisan attacks were quickly silenced in a report by Reuters.

Disputing an earlier report by Bloomberg, Reuters noted that Sorondo was actually the one who personally invited Sanders to speak at the event. President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Margaret Archer, had originally pushed back at the invitation to Sanders, despite signing her name on the invitation.

Primary status

The New York primary is scheduled for this Tuesday, April 19. While the senator has won eight out of the last nine primaries, he still trails Clinton in the all-important delegate count.

With 1,038 delegates to his name, Sanders is still behind Clinton's 1,289. Where the senator is hurting the most is in the form of Superdelegates, where he is outmatched by the former Secretary of State who has 469 expected to go her way, compared to only 31 for Sanders.

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