Pope Francis on Thursday questioned whether US Republican presidential contender Donald Trump was “a Christian,” given his pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to keep immigrants from crossing over.
“Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian,” the pontiff told reporters aboard the papal plane as he was returning home from a visit to Mexico.
“The pope didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact Mexican policies have on the US”
But when asked, Francis said he would not tell American Catholics whether or not they should vote for Trump.
The real estate mogul wasted no time in firing back with a sharp response.
“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 because this would not have happened,” said Trump, reading out a statement in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
The tussle comes just days before frontrunner Trump squares off with other Republicans in Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, a state located in the nation’s so-called Bible Belt.
Trump went on to say that “for a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
The billionaire magnate has climbed to the top of polls since he suggested last June that he would build a wall, and force Mexico to pay for it, to keep “drug traffickers” and “rapists” from entering the United States. He has also pledged to deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
On his last day in Mexico, the pope visited Ciudad Juárez on the US border and prayed for the migrants who have to cross it daily.
But Trump said Mexican officials were “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.”
“He didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States,” Trump said.
English version by Martin Delfín.