Aboard the papal plane, Feb 18, 2016 / 10:00 am
Update Feb. 19: In a statement to Vatican Radio, Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that Pope Francis’ comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote.” Fr. Lombardi noted that Pope Francis had explicitly stated that he was not going into issues of voting and had also spoken in the conditional in his remarks, saying that he wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the Republican candidate.
Pope Francis has repeatedly talked about the need to build bridges rather than walls throughout his pontificate, and his remarks should be understood in this sense, the Vatican spokesman said. “It is not a specific issue, limited to this case. It is his general attitude, very consistent with a courageous following of the Gospel's teachings of welcoming and solidarity.”
During his inflight news conference en route from Juarez to Rome, Pope Francis responded to recent criticism from Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called the Pope “political” and has threatened to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
“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 Feb. 18.
Pope Francis was asked to respond to comments from Donald Trump, who had referred to the Pope as a “pawn” for the Mexican government. Trump says that he will build a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S.
The Pope spoke to journalists on his return flight from Mexico's Ciudad Juarez to Rome. He paid an official Feb. 12-17 visit to the country, which climaxed with the celebration of Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border Mass in Juarez City.
Immigration is a theme close to Francis' heart. A son of Italian immigrants, the Argentine pontiff frequently speaks out asking world leaders to overcome an attitude of indifference and to welcome incoming migrants with dignity and respect.
The Pope also touched on the issue in his speech to U.S. Congress last September, telling lawmakers not to be “fearful of foreigners,” and reminding them of the many positive contributions immigrants make to the life of society. He also pointed out that many of them are descendants of immigrants themselves.
However, in a Feb. 11 interview with Fox Business Network, Donald Trump criticized the Pope’s sympathy toward immigrants, as well as his decision to celebrate a Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think the Pope is a very political person, I think he doesn't understand the problems our country has,” he said.