Pope Francis has jumped into the fray of the 2016 elections, suggesting that GOP front-runner Donald Trump is “not a Christian” for wanting to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
“A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be located, and not building bridges, is not a Christian,” Pope Francis said, after being asked about Trump’s position on illegal immigration. “This is not in the Gospel.”
Francis added that he wasn’t telling Catholics whom to vote for in the election, just that wanting to build such a wall was un-Christian.
Trump fired back, calling the Pope’s remarks “disgraceful” and accused him of being manipulated by the Mexican government. Pope Francis had made his remarks after a six-day tour of Mexico, during which he met with a number of government officials.
“I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President,” Trump said in a statement. “They are 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.”
Trump isn’t the only GOP candidate to support building a wall on the Mexican border. Texas senator Ted Cruz has also called for building a wall, and Florida senator Marco Rubio is committed to building a fence to secure the southern border.
The Pope’s comments pushed some of Trump’s opponents to defend the GOP front-runner for what they see as the Pope’s hypocrisy.
Pope on Trump: “A person who thinks only about building walls…is not Christian.” This is Vatican City. pic.twitter.com/ehmsLoljTl
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 18, 2016
A number of political conservatives has speculated that the Pope’s remarks might help Trump in the South Carolina primary, where many conservative evangelicals see the Pope as a liberal for his views on economics.
Trump has a double-digit lead in South Carolina among GOP voters, with the Feb. 20 primary only days away.