Pope, Trump spar over presidential candidate’s immigration policy

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WASHINGTON -- Thursday’s biggest story in the 2016 presidential race started in an unlikely place: An airplane flying from Mexico to Rome.

A reporter aboard asked Pope Francis about some recent comments from Donald Trump and his immigration policy, which includes building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said. “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 is man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”

The comment immediately became a trending topic on social media and led to the inevitable reaction from Trump on the campaign trail.

“For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful,” Trump said. “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.”

As many tried to dissect the pope’s comments, Martha Fernandez-Sardina, the communications director for Hispanics at the Archdiocese of Denver, said the pope was simply citing the Gospel and that his message applied to all Christians.

“I don't think he was trying to mettle into political issues of any nation,” Fernandez-Sardina said. “He was reminding us, if we are to be Christian, if we are to follow the Gospel mandates, we have some responsibilities to one another.”

Fernandez-Sardina said it’s the Gospel that ultimately challenges all Christians, and she said the pope’s message is not going to change based on what side the public takes on this topic.

“It sometimes can be unpopular to speak the Gospel truth about love,” she said. “Love stretches us. Love forces us to go outside of ourselves, to open our hearts, to build bridges.”

Pope Francis went on to say he would be willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt until he heard exactly what his immigration plan is.

Later in the day, Trump also softened his stance. He said he didn't like fighting with the pope and said the pope's comments were nicer than the media originally made it sound.

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