Having taken on Mexicans, the Republican Party, women, Islam, Jeb Bush, Fox News and Scottish wind farms, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday found himself in a scrap with the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
Speaking from the Papal airliner on Thursday, Pope Francis inserted himself into the presidential race by asserting celebrity hotelier Trump was "not a Christian" because of his views on immigration, particularly his plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and build a wall across the border.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said when a reporter asked him about Trump following his six-day visit to Mexico.
Trump launched his White House bid from the bottom of a gold escalator at the Trump Tower in New York in June, telling the media he would build a wall to keep out "rapists and murderers" from Mexico.
Responding to the pope’s words, Trump, the GOP frontrunner, told reporters at a press conference in South Carolina the remarks were "not a nice thing to say,” while accusing Mexican officials of "using the pope as a pawn."
"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful," Trump puffed. "I'm 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."
Later Trump posted a response on Facebook. It read: “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,” he added, threateningly.
Trump's media manager Dan Scavino offered the following comment:
Amazing comments from the Pope- considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls. pic.twitter.com/g3iVLDVGe5— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) February 18, 2016
Others also pointed out the hypocrisy on the papal attack:
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
Francis' denunciation will likely spark a strong reaction in the US, particularly among Republican voters. In June last year, the pontiff was excoriated by then-candidate Rick Santorum for talking about the dangers of climate change and how it impacts the poor.
Santorum, a catholic, told the pope to “leave the science to the scientists," despite Francis holding a masters degree in chemistry.
Isn't Pope's attack on Trump, a presidential candidate, a violation of tax-free status? Tax the Catholic Church!— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) February 18, 2016
Donald Trump is currently in a flame war with Pope Francis. Best. Election. Ever. https://t.co/rALE00POdr— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) February 18, 2016
While everybody is busy picking sides in the Trump v. Pope Francis argument, I'm going to continue actively disliking both as human beings.— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) February 18, 2016