Bernie Sanders praises Pope's focus on poverty, mention of Dorothy Day

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders said Pope Francis' decision to highlight Dorothy Day underscores the Pontiff's emphasis on helping the poor
  • Sanders called the Pope 'one of the great moral and religious leaders of our time'

Washington (CNN)Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lauded Pope Francis for highlighting Dorothy Day -- a Catholic socialist -- and for calling for action on climate change and poverty in his speech to Congress on Thursday.

In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash, Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, said Day "spent her life fighting for the poor and fighting for justice," and added that the Pontiff's decision to mention her along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton is telling.
"She was a very, very progressive ... socialist who organized working people and the poor to stand up to the wealthy and the powerful and to fight for social justice," Sanders said.
    Day, a social activist and devout Catholic, founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which advocated nonviolence, for the poor and homeless. She also co-founded The Catholic Worker newspaper in 1931 and served as its editor until her death in 1980. The Catholic Church has started the process of Day's canonization.
    "The fact that he cited her -- not to mention Martin Luther King Jr. -- as one of the people he appreciated tells you where this man is coming from in the global world," Sanders said. "The fact that he talked about somebody that spent her life fighting for the poor and fighting for justice."
    Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has made income inequality the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He has also urged action on climate change and immigration reform -- two other issues the Pope mentioned.
    Pope Francis is a Jesuit, an order that tends to embrace the more liberal sides of Catholic debates.
    Sanders called Pope Francis "one of the great moral and religious leaders of our time and in modern history."
    He acknowledged that many Democrats have differences with the Pope over abortion and same-sex marriage.
    "I think he came here today and touched on some very, very important issues that a lot of people would prefer not to talk about. And that is the issue of poverty, the issue of environmental degradation, immigration, the death penalty, the need to do everything we can to create a peaceful world," Sanders said. "And I think he did it in a very dignified, non-partisan type way."