Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump downplayed his rift with Pope Francis during a Friday-morning interview.
Trump said on “Good Morning America” that the pope had simply “made mention” of his vow to crack down on illegal immigration and build a giant wall along the US’ border with Mexico.
“I think it was a little lighter of a mention than the press sort of portrayed, after I read his transcript,” Trump said.
On Thursday, Pope Francis was asked about Trump after concluding a six-day trip to Mexico. The Catholic leader took an apparent shot at Trump’s faith in response. Trump frequently boasts that he’s a devout Presbyterian.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian,” the pope said, according to The New York Times.
Trump issued a furious statement later that day slamming Francis for his “shameful” comments. The billionaire also dramatically read the statement at a campaign rally in South Carolina, which is hosting the next Republican primary on Saturday.
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.
Trump also said warned that the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS, would likely attack Vatican City. He said “if and when” that happens, the pope “would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president, because this would not have happened.”
He further accused Mexican leaders of “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.”
During his Friday “Good Morning America” interview, ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Trump what he would say to to the pope if he were president “right now.” Trump said he would explain to the pope about illegal immigration and the importance of a strong US border.
I think I’d explain the problem of the border. And I’m sure he’s getting the one side: Mexico. We have a tremendous trade deficit — $58 billion trade deficit — with Mexico. In other words, they’re making a fortune off the United States. And much of it is coming illegally.
And I think I would explain the problems of illegal immigration, the tremendous crime that’s ensued, the tremendous economic burden that we’ve got, and the drug problem. I mean, I just won in a fantastic place called New Hampshire. They have a heroin problem that you wouldn’t believe.
“I think I’d explain our side of the picture, because our side of the picture is very correct,” he added. “But the Mexican officials don’t want the strong border.”
For its part, the Vatican also seemed to downplay the apparent rift on Friday. A Vatican spokesman said the pope’s comments were not a “personal attack” and did not intend to target Trump.
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