Pope Francis has become immersed in the US election campaign after calling into question Donald Trump’s Christianity.
Speaking during his in-flight press conference on the way back to Rome after leaving Mexico, the pope was asked about Trump’s views on immigration. The Republican presidential front-runner wants to build a wall along the border from Texas to California.
Acknowledging that he may be entering political territory, Pope Francis said: “A person who only thinks about building walls again and again, and not building bridges, is not a Christian.”
Declining to say whether or not Americans should vote for Trump, he added: “I would only say this man is not a Christian if that is what he says.”
The pope’s comments brought an immediate response from the Republican. Again linking illegal immigrants to violent crime, he described the pope’s comments as “unbelievable”.
Reading out his written response that he also published on Facebook, Trump said:
‘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 – it’s true, it’s true – this would not have happened.”
The Vatican says the pope was speaking not as a politician but a man of faith. Shortly before leaving Mexico, he visited the US border near Ciudad Juarez where many Central Americans try to cross illegally into the US.
The Catholic Church in America is divided over the pope’s stance on social issues. Such an unambiguous intervention concerning Donald Trump will echo loudly in a country where religion is part and parcel of political life.