Donald Trump’s newest nemesis: Pope Francis.
They gently battled Thursday after the Pope, after a visit to Mexico, was asked about Trump’s vow to build a wall separating the U.S.-Mexican border. The pontiff had prayed earlier this week at the border for those who died attempting to come to the U.S.
"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," the pope said.
He had not heard himself of Trump’s plan, and said he would give the Republican presidential candida"Ite the benefit of the doubt.
But, the pontiff said, "I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that."
Trump’s latest controversy comes at a potentially crucial time. South Carolina’s Republican primary is Saturday, and more than 60 percent of voters are expected to be evangelical Christians.
Trump is well ahead in statewide polls. He’s said that if president, he would build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. He maintained that Mexico is sending rapists and criminals to the United States and has suggested Mexican officials urged him to visit the border.
Trump, a Presbyterian, responded quickly.
"For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful," Trump said. "I am proud to be a Christian."
Trump said he learned of the remarks as he prepared to address a rally in this South Carolina resort town.
His first response: "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."
Trump then took on the Mexican government, saying it’s eager to "rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them."
Pope Francis, Trump said, "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."
Trump then got personal.
"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."