Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ criticism of Donald Trump on Thursday prompted a stinging response by conservative pundits and brought Republican rivals to the billionaire presidential candidate’s defense.

The head of the Roman Catholic church gave into temptation and got political at the conclusion of a trip to Mexico. Francis responded to a reporter’s question about Trump’s immigration policy being in conflict with the gospel by saying, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel.”

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The pope’s immigration jab came shortly after he prayed along the southern border for those who died trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Trump, a Presbyterian, called the comment “disgraceful” and said the pope apparently is not aware of crime linked with illegal immigration.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS … 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,” the billionaire told Fox News.

The following is the full text of Donald Trump’s statement responding to Pope Francis’ suggestion Thursday that the real-estate mogul isn’t Christian.

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.

The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The pope only heard one side of the story – he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.

For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. 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. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. 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.

Donald J. Trump

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, responded to the Trump news with caution, saying he didn’t want to respond directly without seeing the pontiff’s full quote.

“I think the Holy Father recognizes, or should recognize (and I believe he does), how generous America is. We accept close to one million [people] every year as permanent residents of the United States. No other country in the world even comes close,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There’s a balance here between compassionate, but also being responsible, especially in a world where radical jihadists are seeking to use the immigration laws of countries to infiltrate killers and fighters into foreign countries.”

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The pope’s comments even managed to bring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also a Catholic, to Trump’s defense. Bush told reporters in South Carolina that he supported “walls and fencing where it’s appropriate,” and did not think it was wise to listen to Francis on “economic or environmental policy,” the Associated Press reported.

Thursday at CNN’s Republican presidential town hall, when asked about the pope’s remarks, Gov. John Kasich said he was “pro-pope.”

Kasich said, “Put me down in the pro-pope column. Really, I mean come on.”

He continued, “This guy has been so humble,” adding, “He has opened the walls and the doors of the church to lots of people who didn’t understand it.”

Referring to the pope’s criticism of  Trump’s border plan, Kasich said, “We have a right to build a wall, but I got to tell you there are too many walls between us. We need bridges between us if we’re going to fix the problems in Washington, because all they do is have walls.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz opted “not to get in the middle” of any altercation between Francis and Trump.

“That’s between Donald and the pope,” Cruz told reporters.

Dr. Ben Carson has often talked up the effectiveness of multi-layered fencing.

Conservative pundits were not as diplomatic as the presidential hopefuls. They hammered Francis for hypocrisy related to communist dictators and the Vatican’s giant security wall.

“Funny, he never did that while visiting Cuba to pay tribute to those who died attempting to escape that communist hellhole,” author Ben Shapiro wrote for Breitbart News. “[The pope instead] reserved his spite for a nation with one of the most generous immigration policies on the planet.”

Ben Shapiro Pope Tweet

Radio host Rush Limbaugh concurred with Shapiro and then wondered why questioning President Obama’s faith is off limits while Trump’s is fair game.

“Has he questioned the faith of the Castro brothers?” asked Limbaugh. “Has the pope questioned the faith of any communist leaders?

“Don’t anybody ask about the president’s religion! Don’t even get close to going there. Don’t do it. That is a forbidden area. You cannot even ask about it. The pope can go ahead and claim that Trump is not a Christian, but you can’t go there when we’re talking about the president of the United States.”

Limbaugh went on to joke that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, may be “too far to the right for the pope.”

Vice President Joe Biden said the controversy is “not a hard call.”

“Pope Francis, Donald Trump? That’s not a hard call for me, not even close,” Biden said in an interview on MSNBC. “I am not a theologian nor am I priest or a minister, but I think that building walls is fundamentally contrary to what made this country what it is.”

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