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


Latest Canada & World News

  • Academic says he's being scapegoated in Facebook data case

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- An academic who developed an app used by Cambridge Analytica to harvest data from millions of Facebook users said Wednesday he had no idea his material would be used in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and that he's being scapegoated in the affair. Source
  • Aging Vancouver home listed for $6.98M

    Canada News CTV News
    Sure it’s nearly 100 years old, rundown, with fencing covered in mildew and moss. But it’s the location, location, location that could make a family home up for sale in downtown Vancouver worth its nearly $7-million price tag. Source
  • Service Canada moves away from calling Canadians Mr., Mrs., or Miss

    Canada News CBC News
    Service Canada employees who interact with the public are being asked to stay away from terms like Mr., Mrs., father and mother, and to use gender-neutral terms in their place, CBC News has learned. According to documents obtained by Radio Canada, the French-language arm of CBC, front-line staff must now "use gender-neutral language or gender-inclusive language. Source
  • Aides told Trump not to congratulate Putin on win: report

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election, drawing bruising criticism from members of his own party, including a leading senator who scorned the election as a "sham. Source
  • Focus turns to missing in Bruce McArthur case

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Judi Riley's 47-year-old brother vanished while on a trip to Toronto nearly five years ago. Her family filed a police report and repeatedly prodded authorities for updates. But there were no leads, until now. Source
  • Israel's warning to enemies confirms destruction of 2007 Syria nuclear reactor

    World News CBC News
    The Israeli military confirmed Wednesday it carried out the 2007 airstrike in Syria that destroyed what was believed to be a nuclear reactor, lifting the veil of secrecy over one of its most daring and mysterious operations in recent memory. Source
  • 'We're not over land': WestJet passengers recount emergency landing in smoke-filled cabin

    Canada News CTV News
    A WestJet flight from Vancouver to Nanaimo, B.C. was evacuated on the tarmac after smoke filled the cabin moments before landing. Flight 3161 declared an emergency as it descended towards Nanaimo Airport on Thursday afternoon. Source
  • Trump legal woes grow on separate fronts involving women accusers

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump faced legal challenges from women on two fronts on Tuesday as a defamation lawsuit brought by a former Apprentice TV show contestant moved forward and a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump sued to undo a confidentiality agreement. Source
  • First lady vows to fight cyberbullying despite skeptics

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Pushing back against her critics, Melania Trump said Tuesday she's committed to fighting cyberbullying despite the knocks she's gotten for taking on the issue when her husband regularly uses Twitter to berate his foes and call them names. Source
  • Dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram are released

    World News CBC News
    Boko Haram extremists returned most of the 110 girls abducted from their Nigeria boarding school a month ago with an ominous warning, witnesses said Wednesday. The fighters rolled into Dapchi around 2 a.m. in nine vehicles and the girls were left in the centre of town. Source