It was Trump who started this battle of words, when he said that the Pope was a political man and the “pawn” of the Mexican government because of his opposition to a wall along the US border.Francis was asked about this on a plane and replied: “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. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. 

Controverial Republican candidate Donald Trump

Donald Trump traded blows with the Vatican on Thursday in an unprecedented religious squabble for an American presidential candidate – after Pope Francis declared that anyone who embraced the billionaire's border-security positions 'is not Christian.'

In mere minutes Trump's aides had helped him craft a biting reply, which he read from a podium during a late-morning speech in coastal South Carolina.

And by day's end the conflict drew Trump's Republican rivals out of the shadows, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – the presidential race's two Roman Catholics – backing The Donald over The Pontiff.

'For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful,' Trump said in South Carolina, just two days before the state's critical presidential primary election.

He doubled down on that comment when he talked to at lunch.

The Pope's dramatic rhetorical jab at Trump came during a freewheeling conversation with reporters on his flight back from to Europe a visit to Mexico.

Francis was asked to react to Trump's vow that he would build a wall on the southern U.S. border if he becomes president.

Trump issued a furious response, reading a lengthy statement from the podium on a campaign stop in the coastal community of Kiawah Island.

He reflected on the seismic impact of crossing swords with the leader of the world's largest religious denomination, and shrugged it off.

'Now it's probably going to be all over the world. Who the hell cares? I don't care!' he said. 'We have to stop illegal immigration ... and crime.'

Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard the flight from Mexico to Italy

Trump blasted the Vatican for what he said was a naive outlook on the ISIS terror army, saying in a statement released to reporters that '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.'

Trump partisans, including his social media director Dan Scavino, circulated photos of the massive wall that separates Vatican City from the rest of Rome.

'Amazing comments from the Pope - considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls,' Scavino wrote in a highly retweeted message.

And reporters swarmed around the rest of the presidential field looking for reactions to the global cultural battle royale.

Rubio told reporters during a press conference in Anderson, South Carolina, that he had not seen the Holy Father's full statement, but defended the Republican Party's line – essentially, Trump's position – on immigration.

'There's no nation on earth that's more compassionate about immigration than we are,' Rubio said.

Noting that the U.S. takes in a million immigrants a year, he declared that 'Mexico doesn't do that. No other country in the world does that.'

'We're a sovereign country. We have a right to control who comes in, when they come in and how they come in,' he added. 'Vatican City controls who comes in, when they come and how they come in, as a nation-state, or a city-state. And as a result, the United States has a right to do that as well.'


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