Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders Reuters

The Vatican said on Thursday that Pope Francis has no plans to meet with Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, when he speaks at a Vatican conference on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

Sanders said last week he hopes to meet the pope while attending a conference on social and environmental issues, saying he was "a big, big fan of the pope" who he said played “an unbelievable role of injecting a moral consequence into the economy”.

But Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters Thursday that the pope has no plans to either address the conference or meet with Sanders.

"I'm not expecting anything," said Lombardi, according to AP.

Sanders, who is Jewish but whose wife is Catholic, has frequently expressed respect for Francis, who was treated to a rock-star reception on an inaugural tour of the United States last year.

The pope had a brief back-and-forth with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in February, which began after the Pope blasted Trump's plan to build a wall with Mexico to halt immigration into America as "not Christian".

Trump later responded and said, "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith. I am proud to be a Christian and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened."

Trump added that in the hypothetical case of an attack on the Vatican by Islamic State (ISIS), Francis would have wanted him to be president.

The Vatican later made clear that the pope’s comments were not intended to single out Trump and were not a personal attack on the billionaire.