Trump is not Christian, suggests Pope Francis
Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30
The Pope has made a surprising intervention in the US election, strongly criticising Donald Trump.
When asked about the controversial billionaire's views on immigration, Pope Francis said that anyone who wants to build a wall along the US-Mexican border isn't Christian.
Responding to the Pope's comment last night, Mr Trump said that for a religious leader to question a person's faith is "disgraceful".
Mr Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border from Texas to California and expel 11 million people who are in the country illegally if elected president.
Pope Francis made the comments en route home from Mexico only hours after he prayed at the Mexico-US border for people who died trying to reach the United States.
"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," Pope Francis said. "This is not in the Gospel."
Not having heard Mr Trump's border plans independently, Pope Francis said he'd "give him the benefit of the doubt." But he added: "I'd just say that this man is not Christian if he said it this way."
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican presidential contender, has also supported building a border wall, and joked he'd make Mr Trump pay for it.
Mr Trump, a Presbyterian, last week criticised Francis' plans to pray at the border. He said the move was ill-informed and showed Pope Francis to be a political figure being exploited by the Mexican government.
"I don't think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico," Trump said in an interview with Fox News. "I think Mexico got him to do it because they want to keep the border just the way it is. They're making a fortune, and we're losing."
Asked if he felt he was being used as a pawn of Mexico, Francis said he didn't know.
"I leave that judgment to you, the people." But he seemed quite pleased to hear that Mr Trump had called him a "political" figure, noting that Aristotle had described the human being as a "political animal." Meanwhile Mr Trump has taken a lead of more than 20 points over US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, bolstering his position ahead of the party's primary in South Carolina on Saturday, according to a national Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Among Republicans, Mr Trump, a billionaire businessman, drew 40pc support in the poll, compared with 17pc for Mr Cruz, 11pc for US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, 10pc for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and 8pc for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
The results contrasted with those of a national poll conducted this week by NBC News and the 'Wall Street Journal' that showed Mr Trump in a national dead heat with Mr Cruz in the race for the Republican nomination for the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
On the Democratic side, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Hillary Clinton maintaining about a 10-point national lead over US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont since last week's New Hampshire primary won by Mr Sanders.