The Pope has gotten involved in the 2016 U.S presidential campaign by suggesting that billionaire Republican front-runner Donald Trump “is not Christian” if he calls for the deportation of undocumented immigrants and pledges to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
The Pope, said this in a conversation with reporters on his flight back to Rome from his six-day visit to Mexico, where he urged the United States to address the “humanitarian crisis” on its southern border.
Aboard the papal airliner, when journalists asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration, the pope said;
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”
He declined to say whether Catholics in America should avoid voting for Mr. Trump, his words;
“As far as whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to meddle in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
“Am I an instrument of the Mexican government? I leave that to your judgement, to the people to judge,” he added.
But Pope Francis left little doubt where he stood on the polarizing issue of immigration reform.
In an astonishing war of words, Donald Trump in mere minutes, responded by calling the pontiff’s attack on him “disgraceful.” He read from a podium during a late-morning speech in coastal South Carolina.
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.
“The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.
“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.
“ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President,” Trump said.
By Thursday evening, Trump’s tone on the pontiff softened saying at a GOP town hall debate in South Carolina hosted by CNN;
“I don’t like fighting with the Pope, I like his personality, I like what he represents.”
He added that he thinks Francis’ remarks were “much nicer” than the media reported and that the Pope had been misled by Mexican officials.
And by day’s end, the conflict had Trump’s Republican rivals, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – the presidential race’s two Roman Catholics backing Donald over The Pontiff.
Earlier on, before the Pope traveled to Mexico, Trump cast the pontiff as a political naif who “doesn’t understand the dangers” at the U.S.-Mexican border.
He criticized the Pope calling him a ‘political person’ and accusing him of acting at the behest of the Mexican government.
“I think that the pope is a very political person,” he said.
Mr. Trump is a Presbyterian and has been trying to make inroads among evangelical voters as he seeks to win the coming set of Southern primaries.
Pope Francis also answered questions on a handful of other issues aboard the flight such as issues bothering on Abortion where he made a distinction between abortion and birth control, flatly ruling out condoning abortion, which he described as “a crime, an absolute evil.”
But seemed more open to making an exception for contraception, citing Pope Paul VI’s decision in the 1960s to make an emergency exception and permit nuns in the Belgian Congo to use contraceptives because they were in danger of rape.
Recall that the World Health Organization had advised the sexual partners of pregnant women to use condoms or abstain from sex if they live in Zika-affected areas or are returning from them in order to prevent the spread of the Zika Virus.