Pope Francis’ remarks that Donald Trump is “not Christian” because he supports a border wall to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country was “in no way” meant to be a personal attack, a spokesman for the Vatican said Friday.
Father Federico Lombardi said on Vatican Radio that the pope’s remarks were simply an extension of his long-held philosophy of supporting migrants by “building bridges” rather than putting up walls.
"It is not that the pope wishes to be, in any way, a personal attack nor an indication of voting," Lombardi said, according to a translation from the Vatican press office.
The radio interviewer said that some have interpreted the pope’s comments as a kind of “excommunication, if we can call it that,” of Trump.
"But the pope said what we well know, when we follow his teaching and his positions: that one mustn't build walls, but bridges," said Lombardi.
"He has always said this, continuously. And he has said it also about migration issues in Europe, very many times. Thus, it's not at all a specific question, limited to this case," he added.
Pope Francis was asked by a reporter Thursday about his views on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to build a border wall between Mexico and the United States.
“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,” Francis said. "I'd just say that this man is not Christian if he said it this way.”
Trump fired back, calling the pope’s comments “disgraceful” for questioning his faith. But he softened his rhetoric later, saying that the pope’s comments “were probably a little bit nicer” than they had been initially portrayed.
At a campaign rally in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Friday afternoon, Trump praised the Vatican for clarifying the pope’s comments. But he continued to advocate the policy, shouting “We’re going to build a wall!” at the rally.