In a World Youth Day address in Panama, Pope Francis called out wall-advocating politicians and citizens, saying that such walls “sow fear” and “divide people,” CNN reports. The pope’s comments came as the United States entered its 34th day of the partial government shutdown, with the gridlock largely centered around President Trump’s request for more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019
The shutdown has since ended, with the president and congressional leaders agreeing to a temporary reopening of the government that did not include funding for the wall. The president immediately indicated that he would take ownership of another shutdown if wall funding is not resolved in the allotted three weeks.
“I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall,” Trump tweeted Friday. “This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
“The races” presumably refers to another showdown over funding, including a possible additional shutdown.
When asked about Trump’s recent rallying cry, “Build a wall and crime will fall,” Francis lamented such thinking, calling it driven by fear.
“It is the fear that makes us crazy,” he said.
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) January 26, 2019
This isn’t the first time the words of Francis have run contrary to the direction of many in the United States, including the Trump administration. On the issue of migrants, Francis has also found himself significantly to the left of many Americans, including many Christians.
“[Migrants] find themselves boxed in and lacking opportunities, amid highly confidential situations with no quick solution: domestic violence, the killing of women,” the pope said, adding that the cure for distrust is to create dialogue that can “help overcome fears and suspicions.”
Francis has consistently spoken out against creation of an us-versus-them mentality throughout the world. His most recent remarks were not specifically directed to Trump, or anyone else in particular, but that isn’t to say that he hasn’t crossed over into that territory before.
In 2016, he criticized Trump’s advocacy for a wall as “not Christian” and suggested that efforts would be better spent building bridges instead.
Trump at the time referred to the pope’s characterization as disgraceful.
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he also said.