In a one-on-one town hall interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday night, Donald Trump made it clear that he had no appetite for fighting with Pope Francis, who he called a “wonderful guy” after the pontiff said Thursday that a person who only thinks about building walls is “not Christian.”
Mr. Trump couldn’t resist getting in a little dig at the Pope, however, by highlighting the Pope has got “an awfully big wall at the Vatican.”
The massive, 40-foot high walls surrounding Vatican City State were built by an earlier pope, Leo IV, after Islamic Saracen troops sacked Old St. Peter’s Basilica in 846 AD. The original wall encompassed the entire Vatican hill, surrounding what came to be known as the Leonine City, and later was reduced to just circumscribe the 110-acre Vatican City that exists today.
When Cooper replied to Trump that “people do come and go through the Vatican,” Trump countered: “And they’re going to come and go through the wall, but they’re going to come and go legally, they’re going to do it legally and that’s what I want and that’s what a lot of people want obviously because they agree with me.”
Trump said that he didn’t think the Pope’s comment was appropriate. “As you know I am very strong on border security and we have to have a border in this country and we certainly don’t have one right now,” he said.
The Republican presidential hopeful also intimated for the second time that he thought the Mexican government had influenced the Pope’s thinking, remarking that “somehow the government of Mexico spoke with the Pope and spent a lot of time with the Pope and by the time he left he made a statement.”
Trump also said he thought that the Pope’s statement was “a little bit nicer” than was reported by the mainstream media “because after I read it, it was a little bit softer,” he said.
Admitting that “I don’t like fighting with the Pope, actually,” Trump said that he doesn’t even think this is a fight. “I think he said something much softer than what was originally reported by the media,” he repeated. “I think he heard one side of the story that was probably by the Mexican government.”
Trump added he would gladly meet with the Pope “anytime he wants.”
Earlier at the town hall, Jeb Bush defended Trump’s faith, noting that personally he wouldn’t “question people’s Christianity.”
“I think that’s a relationship they have with their Lord and savior and themselves. So I just don’t think it’s appropriate to question Donald Trump’s faith,” he said. “He knows what his faith is.”
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