View From Rome
09 June 2016
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As Pope Francis spoke at a high-level Vatican summit on human trafficking last week, seated just two places along from him on the platform was Harvard-educated US economist Jeffrey Sachs.
It was a symbol of the increasing influence that the Colombia University professor, ecological warrior and passionate anti-poverty campaigner has under this pontificate.
On one level this is surprising: Sachs is not a Catholic and holds views on contraception and abortion that are at odds with those of the Church. In his 2008 book Common Wealth Sachs advocates legal abortions as a “lower-risk, lower-cost” alternative to illegal ones. How, the doctrinal purists are asking, can this man be given a platform at the Vatican next to the Pope?
Nonetheless the 61-year-old academic, considered one of the world’s leading experts on eradicating poverty, is now regularly making the flight from New York to Rome due to his close involvement with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which organised last week’s gathering (analysed by Kevin Hyland on page 10). What is more, he has the ear of the Pope, who shares Sachs’ desire to combat economic inequality and protect the environment.
It was Sachs – director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University – who helped arrange the controversial recent meeting between the Pope and Bernie Sanders. What was reported as little more than a quick handshake, was in fact more substantial. The Pope has been keen to meet the 74-year-old US presidential hopeful.
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