Pope says Trump ‘not Christian,’ Trump calls comment ‘disgraceful’
Pope Francis assailed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s views on U.S. immigration as “not Christian” on Thursday, prompting the billionaire businessman to reprimand the religious leader as “disgraceful” for questioning his faith.
No stranger to controversy, Trump, the longtime party front-runner in national opinion polls, has vowed if elected president to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep out immigrants who enter illegally.
In a freewheeling conversation on his flight home from a visit to Mexico, Francis told reporters, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
The pope said he did not want to advise American Catholics on whether or not to vote for Trump, and it was not immediately clear what impact his remarks would have on Republicans likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election.
Republican Catholics appear to support Trump more than other Republicans do, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.
As of 2014, 71 percent of the U.S. population identified as Christian, 21 percent of them Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center.
Asked if American Catholics should vote for someone with Trump’s views, Francis said, “I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt,” he said.
Trump, a real estate developer and former reality TV star, said, “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,” Trump said in a speech in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” he said. Trump has said on occasion, and again on Thursday, that he is a proud of being Christian but emphasized early in the campaign that he does not talk about his faith as much as others might.
Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard the flight from Mexico to Italy on Thursday. GETTY IMAGES