Pope Francis calls Trump ‘not Christian’

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(Left) U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to voters at a rally at the Turtle Point Golf Club in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on February 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Randall Hill 
(Right) Pope Francis talks to the faithful inside the Cathedral in Morelia, Mexico, on February 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool

(Left) U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to voters at a rally at the Turtle Point Golf Club in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on February 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Randall Hill (Right) Pope Francis talks to the faithful inside the Cathedral in Morelia, Mexico, on February 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool

Video courtesy of Reuters

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) — Donald Trump is “not Christian” because of his views on immigration, Pope Francis said on his way back to Rome from Mexico.

The pope said, however, he did not want to advise American Catholics on whether or not to vote for Trump.

In a freewheeling conversation with reporters on the papal flight, Francis was asked about Trump and about whether Catholic women could use birth control to avoid having a baby with severe birth defects caused by the Zika virus now sweeping Central and South America.

Pope Francis talks to the faithful inside the Cathedral in Morelia, Mexico, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool - RTX279SM

Pope Francis talks to the faithful inside the Cathedral in Morelia, Mexico, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Gregorio Borgia/Pool – RTX279SM

Francis has appeared to open the door to a possible limited softening of the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on contraception because of the virus, which is being blamed for babies born with tiny heads that limit their brain capacity.

But the Argentine pontiff categorically ruled out abortion as a response to Zika, comparing the practice to a Mafia killing.

The press conference featured the same kind of straight talk that ran through his speeches in Mexico, where he ripped a culture of death and corruption and blamed government and capitalists for indifference to suffering by migrants and workers.

Francis dug into Trump’s vow to build a wall between the United States and Mexico if he becomes president.


RELATED STORY: Trump ties Pope Francis as second ‘most admired,’ behind Obama


“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said in answer to a specific question about Trump’s views. “This is not in the gospel.”

Asked if American Catholics should vote for someone with Trump’s views, Francis said:

“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. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

On his last day in Mexico, Francis said a Mass on the U.S. border, where he railed against immigration policies that force many underground and into the hands of drug gangs and human smugglers.

Trump has also said he would deport millions of illegal migrants if he wins the November U.S. election. Last week he told Fox Business television that Pope Francis did not understand the Mexican border issues.


RELATED STORY: In Juarez, pope slams hell faced by migrants, blasts ‘slave driver’ capitalists


“The pope is a very political person. I think he doesn’t understand the problems our country has. I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico,” he said.

Asked about being called a “political person,” Francis said: “Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ So at least I am a human person.”

Maribel Gomez, 21, installs a mosquito net over her bed in Cali, Colombia, on February 17, 2016. Municipal health authorities in Cali delivered mosquito nets to pregnant women and installed guppy fish bowls as a preventive measure against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is said to transmit the Zika virus. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

Maribel Gomez, 21, installs a mosquito net over her bed in Cali, Colombia, on Feb. 17, 2016. Municipal health authorities in Cali delivered mosquito nets to pregnant women and installed guppy fish bowls as a preventive measure against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is said to transmit the Zika virus. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

Francis was also put on the spot about whether the church needs to soften its teachings on abortion and contraception in Latin American in the face of the Zika health crisis.

Many scientists believe Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that is sweeping through the Americas, may be a risk factor for microcephaly in newborns.

The pope was asked if using contraception would fall into the category of the lesser of two evils and how he felt about some authorities advising pregnant women with Zika to have abortions.

He categorically ruled out that abortion would ever be permitted for pregnant women with Zika. “Abortion is not a lesser evil. It is a crime. It is killing one person to save another. It is what the Mafia does,” Francis said, speaking passionately against the practice. “It is a crime. It is an absolute evil.”

The 1.2 billion-member church teaches that abortion is a crime because life begins at the moment of conception. The church teaches that contraception is wrong because nothing should block the possible transmission of life.


RELATED STORY: Could the Zika virus move Catholics to reconsider birth control? (COMMENTARY)


But Francis mentioned in his response that one of his predecessors, Pope Paul VI, had issued an exceptional dispensation allowing nuns in Africa to use the birth control pill because they risked being raped during a conflict there.

He said Paul, who reigned from 1963 to 1978, had responded to “a difficult situation in Africa,” suggesting that a papal precedent existed.

Francis did not say exactly when his predecessor made the exception, but it was believed to be in the 1960s in what was then the Belgian Congo. Little is known of the episode, which was not publicized at the time.

Francis said that unlike abortion, “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil” and added that “in certain cases,” such as the precedent set by Paul VI regarding the nuns in Africa, using contraception might be the “lesser evil.”

He did not elaborate.

Paul VI confirmed the Roman Catholic ban on artificial birth control in his major 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (On Human Life), which ran into strong opposition in some parts of the church.

In Francis’ comments on Zika, he also urged the medical and scientific communities to do everything possible to find out more about the disease.

“I would also like to exhort doctors to do everything to find vaccines against the mosquitoes that bear this illness. We have to work on that,” he said.

At other points in conversation with media, the pope reiterated that he would “really like” to visit China.

The pope also pointed to a possible high-profile interreligious meeting, saying he would like to meet the grand imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric based in Cairo. Francis said it would be up to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to arrange the meeting.

(RNS Rome correspondent Rosie Scammell contributed to this report)

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  • Ben in oakland

    Two out of three Corinthians don’t think the Catholic Church is Christian, either.

    As for building walls instead of bridges, Signore Pontifex, I seem to remember a Few henchmen of yours having problems with children. And making some comments about gay people being a threat to the family, losing touch with their humanity, etc etc etc

  • Rudy Haugeneder

    Hmmm. I wonder if the Pope thinks about or has visited any walled — gated — communities for the middle class and the wealthy that are increasingly common across the world as the better off try to separate themselves from the less fortunate?
    In fact the wealthy Vatican itself is a walled community keeping everybody but the chosen few and select guests out and thus discriminates against the rest of the citizens of Rome.
    As for Donald Trump, don’t vote for him. Vote for Bernie.

  • drwho13

    The pope just said that anyone for walls (Trump) is not Christian, but many Evangelicals say that Catholics are not Christians. SC just got even more interesting.

  • Rod

    The antichrist (Pope) making a speach about christians is appalling… Go figure who is seating over the seven hills of Rome.

  • Richard Rush

    “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian”

    There are millions of Fundamentalist TrueChristians in the United States who will be mighty angry at Francis for talking about them that way.

  • Doc Anthony

    Gotta agree with Trump on one thing. If ISIS attacks, (or even tiny little North Korea), the Pope and every other socialist media darling is going to *****severely***** wish that Mr. Donald Trump was the President of the USA.

  • drwho13

    How tall is the wall around Vatican City? One news channel reported that it was 40 feet.

    Say 10,000 migrants set up tents in St.Peter’s Square. How long would it be before they they were removed?

  • Jack

    Donald Trump said he was “proud” to be a Christian. Any person who says they are “proud” to be a Christian doesn’t even know the meaning of the word.

    To be a Christian means you are eating humble pie, admitting that you are a sinner who is so separated from God that Jesus had to suffer and die a horrible death so you could avoid final judgment.

    To be human is to be legitimately proud of many things — meeting goals, standing for what is right, prevailing against all odds, etc. But to be proud to be a Christian is a total contradiction in terms. One who is a Christian is humbled and awed to be the recipient of total grace, total unmerited favor by God through forgiveness of sins.

    Donald Trump is therefore a fraud and a charlatan. And shame on every Christian who knowingly or not is perpetrating this fraud on the American people…..from Sean Hannity to Jerry Falwell, Jr. to Pastor Jeffries of First Baptist in Dallas.

  • Angel Guadalupe

    To be a christian is be somebody similar to Paul, Peter, John, etc, Christ followers everyday till die,

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  • Jack

    I don’t need Donald Trump to defend this country against ISIS…..almost any person with a pulse can do a better job than Barack Obama. Any one of those people on stage besides Trump will do the job — with the advantage being that we won’t be electing an unstable 10-year-old trapped in an adult’s body.

  • Jack

    Obviously the pope chose the wrong issue on which to challenge Trump.

    He should have said Trump wasn’t a Christian because he is an, arrogant, boastful, vengeful misogynist and racist who publicly refused to admit he needed to ask either God or fellow human beings for forgiveness on anything. The heart of the Gospel is to admit that one does need forgiveness, which is why Christ died in the first place. It is logically impossible to be a Christian and believe one doesn’t need the atonement that is central to the Christian faith.

    Trump is a complete fraud and so are the political preachers covering for him. I marvel at the patience and the mercy of God when watching hypocrites like Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Pastor Jeffries defend what is logically and morally indefensible….and not just defend but obfuscate.

    Evangelicalism in America is a cesspool. God bless those evangelicals who stand against this abomination.

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  • Jack

    Rod, don’t be ridiculous. While I am not a Catholic, and while I think the current pope isn’t the brightest bulb in the world, the notion that the Pope is the anti-Christ of the book of Revelation is laughable nonsense. First off, the one who sits on the “seven hills of Rome” is a woman who represents a resurgent Babylon, seen in Revelation as a commercial power in or around the Euphrates River, or, some have speculated, the Persian Gulf. It could be Dubai, or it could be a literal Babylon which Saddam had once tried to rebuild.

    The anti-Christ is probably from Rome, but he is depicted as a secular dictator demanding literal worship as a god……that rules out any pope. The Babylon sitting on Rome depicts the initial commercial dominance of Babylon over Rome and over the anti-Christ. The woman riding the beast, also in Revelation, is a more direct depiction.

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  • patrick

    @Jack
    ” Donald Trump is therefore a fraud and a charlatan. And shame on every Christian who knowingly or not is perpetrating this fraud on the American people….”

    Well said Torquemada !
    Past time to resurrect the Inquisition.
    Sic semper haereticus
    Keep your matches dry Jack….

  • Jack

    “Patrick,” your post wins non-sequitur of the week. It is completely unrelated to anything preceding it.

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  • Tony Greenfield

    The Reformed Churches are rediscovering healing, the healing of Jesus – Faith in Jesus, while the Catholic Churches and their leader of encouraging medical research. We needed the Reformation then and we still need it today, the Bible is a true record of the minstry of Jesus and the early Church. We should relive it. Let the leaders pray and encourage their peeople to pray, that is ask God to heal!

  • patrick

    @ Jack
    ” Obviously the pope chose the wrong issue on which to challenge Trump.
    ¶He should have said Trump wasn’t a Christian because he is an, arrogant, boastful, vengeful misogynist and racist who publicly refused to admit he needed to ask either God or fellow human beings for forgiveness on anything. ”

    Jack – now you’re correcting ” The Vicar of Christ ” .
    And you called Trump ” arrogant ” ?

  • Jack

    I’m not a Catholic, Patrick, but in case you haven’t noticed, Catholics have been far tougher than I on the Pope in many ways. It appears you’re not a Catholic or an ill-informed one, because if you were informed, you’d know that even within Catholicism, the Pope is not beyond criticism……only when he speaks ex cathedra is that the case. To say the Pope chose the wrong issue to criticize Trump is a very modest critique, and again, Catholics have gone much farther than that in criticizing him.

    And yes, of course I am calling Trump arrogant – and a lot more than that. He is a horribly wretched character who shouldn’t be within a million miles of the office once held by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. All of these men had their own flaws, but in the actual conduct of their job as president, they treated the office with the respect and dignity it deserved as the people’s office.

  • Jack

    I’ll make it simpler — people who treat other human beings publicly and privately the way Trump does don’t even clear the bar of lowest-common-denominator decency, let alone Christian behavior. If someone is a totally arrogant and contemptible sleaze ball, an abuser of people because they think their billionaire status lets them get away with it, they should be called on it.

  • Ben in oakland

    Calling Doc Anthony!