Pope Francis had some harsh words for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump today, just three hours after concluding his final mass in Mexico. The pontiff is currently returning back to Rome following his historic Mexico visit, and it was aboard the papal airliner that he answered questions about Donald Trump, the New York Times reports. Pope Francis was asked by a reporter for his thoughts on Donald Trump, and his response was rather scathing.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Despite his harsh words about Trump, Pope Francis wouldn’t go so far as to indicate which presidential candidate he believed American Catholics should be voting (or not voting for). Politico reports that when the pope was asked a follow-up question, namely whether it would be appropriate for American Catholics to vote for Donald Trump, he demurred slightly.
“As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he says things like that.”
Donald Trump didn’t waste much time firing back at the pope for his critical words, lashing out at the leader of the world’s Catholics during a Trump rally in South Carolina, where he is currently leading by double digits in the Republican primary polls. During his speech, Donald Trump took Pope Francis to task, saying that “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS,” Pope Francis will be wishing for a President Trump.
Moments later, the Donald Trump campaign issued a full response to Pope Francis’ questioning of the reality TV star’s religious beliefs, Politico reports. The statement released by the Trump campaign and sourced to Donald Trump himself, calls the pope’s criticism of Trump “disgraceful.” Trump went on to refer to the Vatican as ISIS’s “ultimate trophy,” writing that under a Trump presidency, 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. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
In addition to Donald Trump’s strongly worded response to the criticism of Pope Francis, senior Trump adviser Dan Scavino took to social media to call out the pope’s “hypocrisy.”
Amazing comments from the Pope- considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls. pic.twitter.com/g3iVLDVGe5
— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) February 18, 2016
This isn’t the first time that Donald Trump and the pontiff have butted heads in recent days. Just last week, the GOP front-runner called Pope Francis out for his visit to the Mexican/United States border in the midst of a contentious election cycle. Trump called the pope’s visit to the border “political,” adding that he didn’t feel that the pope understood the problems America faces due to an overly porous border with its southern neighbor.
Not surprisingly, social media has frenzied with the news of Pope Francis’ criticism and the nearly immediate response from Donald Trump and his campaign. Some believe that Trump could be compromising his electability by getting into a war of words with the leader of the largest religious denomination in the United States. Others believe that the Pope shouldn’t be interfering in American politics or commenting on the faith or lack thereof of American presidential candidates.
— nickolas silver (@royalviking04) February 18, 2016
@mashable pope convinced me, trump has my vote
— Rob (@Tactical_Hound) February 18, 2016
Despite the recent contentious words between Pope Francis and Donald Trump, there was a time when Trump had nothing but good things to say about the pontiff. On Christmas Day 2013, Trump sent out a tweet saying that new pope was “a very humble man,” comparing himself to Pope Francis and stating that their apparent similarities in character could be why Trump liked the new leader of the Catholic Church “so much.”
With the 2016 presidential primaries in full swing, it remains to be seen what impact the new drama between the pope and the GOP candidate may have on the election cycle. Donald Trump is still campaigning diligently in South Carolina, hoping to win that state’s primary on February 20, despite the critical words of Pope Francis.
[Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]