Pope vs. Trump: 'Not Christian' to only build border walls

Thrusting himself into the heated American presidential campaign, Pope Francis declared Thursday that Donald Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to address illegal immigration only by building a wall along the U.S.

See Full Article

-Mexico border.

Trump fired back ferociously, saying it was "disgraceful" for a religious leader to question a person's faith.

The rare back-and-forth between pontiff and presidential candidate was the latest astonishing development in an American election already roiled by Trump's free-wheeling rhetoric and controversial policy proposals, particularly on immigration. It also underscored the popular pope's willingness to needle U.S. politicians on hot-button issues.

Francis' comments came hours after he concluded a visit to Mexico, where he prayed at the border for people who died trying to reach the U.S. While speaking to reporters on the papal plane, he was asked what he thought of Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall along the entire length of the border and expel millions of people in the U.S. illegally.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," he said. While Francis said he would "give the benefit of the doubt" because he had not heard Trump's border plans independently, he added, "I say only that this man is not a Christian if he has said things like that."

Trump, a Presbyterian and the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, responded within minutes.

"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful," he said at a campaign stop in South Carolina, which holds a key primary on Saturday. "I am proud to be a Christian, and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened."

Trump also raised the prospect of the Islamic State extremist group attacking the Vatican, saying that if that happened, "the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened."

The billionaire businessman said later Thursday that he was "totally respectful" of the pope but stood by his initial response.

Francis, the first pope from Latin America, urged Congress during his visit to Washington last year to respond to immigrants "in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal."

He irked Republicans on the same trip with his forceful call for international action to address climate change.

Immigration is among the most contentious issues in American politics. Republicans have moved toward hardline positions that emphasize law enforcement and border security, blocking comprehensive legislation in 2013 that would have included a path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.

Hispanics, an increasingly large voting bloc in U.S. presidential elections, have flocked to Democrats in recent years. President Barack Obama won more than 70 per cent in the 2012 election, leading some Republican leaders to conclude that the party must increase its appeal to them.

However, the current GOP presidential primary has been dominated by increasingly tough rhetoric on immigration. Trump has insisted that Mexico will pay for his proposed border wall and has said some Mexicans entering the U.S. illegally are murderers and rapists.

While Trump's rhetoric has been among the most inflammatory, some of his rivals have staked out similar enforcement positions. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson are among those who have explicitly called for construction of a wall.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of the few GOP candidates proposing a path to legal status for people already in the U.S. illegally, said Thursday that he supports "walls and fencing where it's appropriate." Bush said that while he gets his guidance "as a Catholic" from the pope, he doesn't take his cues from Francis on "economic or environmental policy."

Marco Rubio, another Catholic seeking the GOP nomination, said that Vatican City has a right to control its borders and so does the United States.

Rubio said he has "tremendous respect and admiration" for the pope, but he added, "There's no nation on Earth that's more compassionate on immigration than we are."

Cruz said he was steering clear of the dispute. "That's between Donald and the pope," he said. "I'm not going to get in the middle of them."

It's unclear what impact, if any, the pope's rhetoric will have on the Republican primary. An October poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that most Americans had no strong opinion on the pope's approach to immigration issues, though he was overall viewed favourably.

Even before Thursday's exchange, Trump had been critical of Francis' visit to Mexico. He said last week that the pope's plans to pray at the border showed he was a political figure being exploited by the Mexican government.

Francis glossed over Trump's assertion that he was a pawn of Mexico, telling reporters on his plane that he would "leave that up to your judgment." But he seemed pleased to hear the candidate had called him a "political" figure, noting that Aristotle had described the human being as a "political animal."

Pace reported from Greenville, South Carolina. AP writers Jill Colvin in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and Tom Beaumont in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Palestinian kills three members of Israeli family in West Bank stabbing [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    JERUSALEM — Israel’s military fortified its troops in the West Bank and placed forces on high alert Saturday, a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family and some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years erupted over tensions at the Holy Land’s most contested shrine. Source
  • Crane collapse kills 7, injures 2 in southern Chinese city

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- A crane leaned and collapsed on a construction site of a major infrastructure company in southern China, killing seven people and injuring two, authorities said Sunday. The collapse occurred late Saturday at the construction site for the southern headquarters of the state-owned China Communications Construction Co. Source
  • Alberta Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose vote 95% in favour of merger

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • B.C. wildfire evacuation lifted for hundreds as federal government promises funds

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The federal government is promising more funding to support residents affected by raging wildfires in British Columbia as some of the thousands of people displaced prepare to return home. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government will supply $600 per household evacuated due to wildfires and $300 for their eventual return — funds that will be managed and distributed by the Canadian Red Cross. Source
  • Wildrose, Progressive Conservative parties to merge with 95% approval

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • Princess Diana's last conversation with her sons recounted in documentary

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- It was a typical phone call between two boys playing and their mother, who was on vacation in France. It was brief -- the boys wanted to get back to playing with their cousins, not spend time on the phone chatting. Source
  • O.J. Simpson's brand out of juice

    World News Toronto Sun
    Can O.J. have a fourth quarter comeback? Not without a game ball. O.J. isn’t the first celebrity to grace his mug on a mugshot, and many have made their way back to the top — Hugh Grant, Keifer Sutherland, Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr. Source
  • Wildrose votes yes to unity with 95% of the vote

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The Wildrose Party approved unifying with Progressive Conservatives in an historic vote Saturday. Just over ninety-five per cent of Wildrose members voted yes for unity, well above the 75 per cent majority it needed to give the merger a go-ahead. Source
  • What’s next for O.J. Simpson? [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    At times, during O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing it seemed as though the battered old jock was moving his body like he was evading bruising linebackers. The big man on campus. Bobbing. Weaving. Jocular. Locker room O.J. O.J. Source
  • 9/11 victim's wife disgusted by $10.5M Khadr deal [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The widow of a Toronto businessman killed in the World Trade Centre on 9/11 says its sickening that the Liberal government has allowed terrorist Omar Khadr to play the victim card and collect $10.5 million. Maureen Basnicki’s husband, Ken Basnicki, was in New York City on business when he was killed in the North Tower on Sept. Source