Donald Trump Ridicules Bernie Sanders’ Meeting With Pope Francis: ‘You Would Think He’d Stay In New York And Campaign’

Donald Trump turned his attention away from his “A-list” foes Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz to take a jab at Democratic contender Bernie Sanders during a campaign event in New York on Saturday. Speaking before an audience in Syracuse, the GOP frontrunner made light of the Vermont senator’s recent meeting with Pope Francis, suggesting that the endeavor was little more than glitzy publicity and wasted effort.

“You know, he went to see the pope,” Donald Trump said in comments transcribed by CBS News. “Five minutes. Then he came out. He said, ‘We talked about the environment, we talked about global warming, we talked about all these different things… And I said, wait a minute, he was only there five minutes. So the pope gave him five minutes. I wonder why the pope gave him five — he shouldn’t have given him that much time really.”

Bernie Sanders recounted his encounter with Pope Francis with enthusiasm when he spoke to CNN on Saturday. According to a report from the network, Sanders and his wife Jane spent Friday night at a Vatican residence called Casa Santa Marta and met Pope Francis briefly on Saturday morning before the pontiff left to meet with Syrian migrants on the island of Lesbos.

Bernie Sanders Pope Francis Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday. [Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]In subsequent comments, Trump acknowledged that Sanders’ meeting with Pope Francis might earn the Democratic candidate some additional support from Catholic voters, particularly in the forthcoming New York primary on April 19. But he maintained his earlier position that Sanders could have utilized his time better with such an important primary contest on the horizon.

“It might help a little bit … but it’s a long trip and for a five-minute visit,” Trump said. “You would think he’d stay in New York and campaign.”

Aggregate polling data from Real Clear Politics indicate Bernie Sanders is an underdog in Tuesday’s New York primary contest. But his strong showing in CNN’s Democratic debate earlier this week has provided supporters with cautious optimism that Sanders could upset Hillary Clinton once the votes are all counted.

pope francis donald trump Pope Francis meets migrants at the Moria detention centre on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. [Photo by Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister’s Office via Getty Images]While Donald Trump has some rather deep-seated political differences with Bernie Sanders, the billionaire candidate has also feuded with Pope Francis himself in a short but public scrap earlier this year. As reported by the Washington Post, the flap began when Pope Francis questioned Donald Trump’s faith over the real estate mogul’s repeated assertions that the United States should build a wall on the border with Mexico to block incoming immigrants. Trump later called the pontiff’s comment “disgraceful” and said that Pope Francis himself was “a very political person.” The back-and-forth between both camps continued for days until each side relented, with Donald Trump saying that he did not enjoy fighting with the pope.

Both in the case of the dust-up with Donald Trump and the pope’s meeting with Bernie Sanders, the Vatican has denied any political motivations. With regard to the matter of immigration, a Vatican spokesperson noted that the Catholic Church often makes statements regarding humanitarian crises and relationships between nations in the interests of “dignity and peace.”

As for his get-together with Bernie Sanders, Pope Francis himself said the purpose of the encounter was to discuss their common causes and not to make any statements regarding the ongoing political contests in America.

“It’s called manners and not getting involved in politics,” said Pope Francis of his meeting with Sanders. “If anyone thinks that a greeting is getting involved in politics, then I recommend they look for a psychiatrist.”

[Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images]