Donald Trump has called Pope Francis "disgraceful" after the Republican presidential candidate was described as being "not Christian".
Responding to the Pope comments, which were made in a conversation with reporters on his flight back from a visit to Mexico, Mr Trump insisted he is a Christian and proud of it.
"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 because this would not have happened," Mr. Trump said. "ISIS would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.
"The Mexican government and its leadership has made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope, because they want to continue to rip off the United States, both on trade and at the border, and they understand I am totally wise to them. The Pope only heard one side of the story - he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States. He doesn’t see how Mexican leadership is outsmarting President Obama and our leadership in every aspect of negotiation.
"For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith. They are using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so, especially when so many lives are involved and when illegal immigration is so rampant."
The war of words between began when the Pope spoke out on Trump's statements on immigrants.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the Pontiff 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.”
Mr. Trump, who won last week's New Hampshire presidential primary vote by a wide margin, has repeatedly said he would build a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and clais he will make Mexico pay for it.
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