After visiting the US-Mexico border, Pope Francis on Thursday responded to a question about Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between the two countries by saying that “this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
Francis added that he would give Trump “the benefit of the doubt,” given that he did not know details of the Republican presidential candidate’s plan to build a border wall. Though the pope was asked specifically about Trump’s plan during his visit to Mexico, the businessman is not the only GOP candidate who has called for a wall to secure the US border. Both Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have said that they support a similar plan.
Trump quickly responded to Francis’s remarks with his usual bombast, warning of a potential attack on the Vatican.
“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,” Trump said in a statement.
But rather than criticize Pope Francis directly for his remarks, Trump suggested that the pontiff was being misinformed by the Mexican government “because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them.”
Trump added, however, that he thought it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader “to question a person’s faith,” noting that he is “proud to be a Christian.”
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so,” he said in apparent reference to the Mexican government, “especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, took the real-estate mogul’s side in the spat with the Vatican.
When asked by CNN on “The Lead with Jake Tapper” about the Pope’s remarks, Rubio gave a lengthy defense of the United States as the “most compassionate and open country in the world on legal immigration,” and defended the government’s right to implement and enforce immigration laws as it sees fit.
“I think the Holy Father recognizes or should recognize and I believe he does how generous America is,” Rubio said. “We accept, every year, close to a million or over a million people every year as permanent residents of the United States. No other country even comes close.”
Republican rival, Jeb Bush, a devout Catholic, who came to Trump’s defense.
“I think his Christianity is between he and his creator don’t think we need to discuss that,” Bush told reporters on Thursday in Columbia. The defense of his spiritual life did not extend to his political life, though. “As it relates to his policies related to ISIS, he’s not the right guy to be commander-in-chief,” Bush added.