Pope Francis suggested that Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump is "not Christian" based on some of his positions on immigration.
The pontiff's remarks drew immediate rebuke from Trump.
"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. ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians," Trump said in a statement issued by his campaign.
Last week, Trump called Pope Francis a "very political person" and implied that the pontiff is being used as a pawn by the Mexican government.
Trump's statement on Thursday made it more explicit: "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."
Pope Francis, who is among the most influencial religious leaders in the world, is returning to the Vatican after finishing a trip to Cuba and Mexico. According to CBS News, the pope responded to reporter questions and said of Trump: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel."
Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and send the bill to Mexico and he has called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists.
Pope Francis did not go so far as to advise Catholic Americans how to vote in the upcoming primaries, according to CBS News.
In the past, Trump has tweeted compliments at the pope:
Congratulations to my Catholic friends on the selection of Pope Francis I to lead the Catholic Church. People that know him love him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 14, 2013
The new Pope is a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2013
"@mgmacdon: @realDonaldTrump if they had to say yes, who would your first pick to be on the celebrity apprentice?" The Pope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 6, 2014
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.