Sanders presses Pope Francis on income inequality

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called upon Pope Francis Tuesday to make income inequality a key theme of this week’s address to Congress, saying the religious icon can lend the “clearest voice in the world” to the issue.

“I hope every members of Congress and the president will heed his call for social justice,” Sanders said Tuesday morning during a rally for low-wage Capitol workers.

Pope Francis has made social justice a focal point of his papacy since taking over in 2013, and Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, has echoed his call to end income inequality along the campaign trail.

During the pope’s first visit to the United States, Sanders hopes the message will ring loud and clear with his fellow lawmakers.

“He is one of the great moral forces on earth today,” Sanders told The Hill. “When he speaks out about the injustice of income and wealth inequality, the fact that so few have so much and so many have so little, and that we can do much better as human beings, I think it will have a significant impact.”

Sanders rallied with hundreds of low-wage Capitol workers Tuesday morning, who walked off their jobs demanding a $15 minimum wage and a union. The rally started at a nearby Catholic church and then proceeded to the steps of the Capitol building for prayer.

The Capitol workers, who cook and clean for lawmakers, claim the federal government is a leading low-wage job creator in the U.S. They hope the pope will address their plight during his speech to lawmakers on Thursday.

“We want you to know that even though we serve the wealthy and the powerful in the Congress, we earn so little that we live in utter poverty,” the Capitol workers wrote earlier this month in a letter to Pope Francis requesting a meeting with him. “We sleep on the streets, because we cannot pay the rent. We go to bed hungry, because we can’t put food on the table.

“We may be invisible to the wealthy and powerful we serve everyday — but we know we are worthy of a more abundant life as children of God,” they added.

Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, has been leading the push to raise wages for Capitol workers. He said they’re “appealing to a higher power.”

“The Capitol is the symbol of the income inequality the pope is calling on us to address,” he told the Hill. “You have wealthy and powerful U.S. senators who are being served by people who make so little they go hungry and homeless.

“They’ve been on strike,” he added. “The president hasn’t listened to them. The Senate hasn’t listened to them. Maybe this pope will bless them in their struggle for higher wages.”

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