WASHINGTON DC - Shortly before leaving the Capitol for the holiday recess, Senate Democrats gathered behind closed doors to lay out an agenda for 2014. When the majority leader, Harry Reid, exhorted colleagues to “deal with the issue of income inequality,” the talk took a spiritual turn.
“You know,” declared Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, who caucuses with Democrats, “we have a strong ally on our side in this issue — and that is the pope.”
That Mr. Sanders, who is Jewish, would invoke the pope to Mr. Reid, a Mormon, delighted Roman Catholics in the room. (“Bernie! You’re quoting my pope; this is good!” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois recalled thinking.) Beyond interfaith banter, the comment underscored a larger truth: From 4,500 miles away at the Vatican, Pope Francis, who has captivated the world with a message of economic justice and tolerance, has become a presence in Washington’s policy debate.
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