• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Donald Trump slams Pope for 'disgusting' Christian jibe
Donald Trump issued a statement criticizing the Pope on Thursday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP

Donald Trump slams Pope for 'disgusting' Christian jibe

AFP · 19 Feb 2016, 08:59

Published: 19 Feb 2016 08:59 GMT+01:00

Two-thirds of South Carolinians are Protestants, with evangelical voters comprising the largest voting block in the state during its Republican primary, which is being held on Saturday.
   
The evangelical faithful are often suspicious of hierarchical authority, and a Pew Institute study in January said liberal Americans have a more favorable view of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church than conservatives.
   
This could serve in Trump's favor when it comes to the spat between him and the pontiff, who triggered the controversy when he said the billionaire real estate mogul is "not a Christian" because he wants to build a wall on the US southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.
   
The remarks led to a torrent of media coverage, even as Francis cautioned his statement by saying he still wanted to see if Trump had made such comments and would "give him the benefit of the doubt."

Trump's response was swift, stern and par for the course for his campaign, in which he has refused to let a criticism go unchallenged.
   
"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful," Trump said in a statement that he read to a campaign crowd in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
   
Was Trump's biting response a ploy to gain evangelical support some 48 hours before the critical primary?
   
"I don't do it for that reason," he told Fox News.
   
"With me, I just tell the truth," he added, stressing that "we need borders, we have to stop illegal immigration. It's killing our country."
   
A Trump surrogate wasted no time in pointing out the apparent hypocrisy in slamming Trump for wanting to build a wall.
   
"Amazing comments from the Pope - considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls," Dan Scavino, Trump's director of social media, posted on Twitter.

Careful criticism

Story continues below…

The bombshell back-and-forth dominated the campaign Thursday, with rivals Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio wading in carefully to suggest the pope's advice was not entirely welcome.
   
"I don't question anybody's Christianity because I honestly believe that's a relationship you have with your creator," Bush told reporters.
   
"It only enabled bad behavior when someone from outside our country talks about Donald Trump."
   
Bush is Catholic, as is fellow Floridian Rubio, and they appeared to send the gentle message that Francis, who had just completed a visit to Mexico, should stick to his role as a religious leader.
   
"I think the Holy Father recognizes or should recognize - and I believe he does - how generous America is," Rubio said.

"When it comes to accepting both refugees and immigrants, no nation on this planet is more welcoming, more open or more compassionate than the United States," Rubio added.
   
"Certainly a lot more welcoming in our laws than Mexico is."
   
In his historic speech before the US Congress last year, the pope urged US lawmakers to mobilize against climate change, take in more refugees and abolish the death penalty - positions opposed by many Republicans.
   
Religious figures rushed to Francis's defense.
   
Catholic League president Bill Donohue told CNN he felt Francis was "set up" by a reporter asking about Trump.
   
"I'll give him the benefit of the doubt," Donohue said of the pope's remarks.
   
Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference, said the pope was reacting less to Trump himself and more to the gospel's opposition to building barriers.
   
"I think he's attacking an issue more than a person," Kesicki said on CNN.
   
The ultimate question is whether South Carolina's evangelicals line up behind Trump on Saturday.
   
Senator Ted Cruz narrowly captured Iowa, the first state to vote in the nomination battle, thanks to evangelicals.
   
Reverend Don Flowers of Providence Baptist Church in Charleston told AFP he was "not convinced this year there is going to be an evangelical bloc of voters going to one candidate."
   
That could spell a clear victory for Trump if he neutralizes Cruz's advantage with religious voters.
   
At the nearby St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pastor James Blalock suggested Trump's remarks might have been out of line.
   
"The pope has better credentials to comment about what is Christian and what is not than Donald Trump," Blalock said.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
Generations of glamour unite to toast Bottega Veneta
US star Lauren Hutton takes to the runway with the Bottega bag from American Gigolo. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Hollywood icon Lauren Hutton joined Gigi Hadid on the catwalk as the world of glamour united across the generations to celebrate 50 years of venerated Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta.

Interview
'My problem is too many ideas': Italy's couture king
Francois Guillot / AFP

Giambattista Valli says his fledgling ready-to-wear line is thriving -- thanks to spillover synergy from a haute couture operation that has made him a darling of the celebrity A-list set.

Italy orders man to buy feminist books for prostitute
An image of a customer meeting a prostitute. Photo: Italian investigators

A court in Rome has handed down an unusual penalty to the client of an underage prostitute, ordering him to buy her 30 books on the theme of women's dignity, Italian media reported Friday.

Pope holds multi-faith meeting with Nice victims
Pope Francis kisses a baby on arrival at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/ AFP

Pope Francis will on Saturday hold a multi-faith meeting of grieving relatives and survivors of an attack in France in July when a jihadist ploughed his truck into a crowd in Nice.

For one day only: €1 nighttime entry to Italy's cultural sites
Fancy getting up close and personal with David after dark? Photo

Saturday is European Heritage Day, and Italy is celebrating with €1 entry to many of its most famous sites.

The real reasons young Italians aren't having kids
Why have Italians seemingly stopped making babies? File photo: Pexels

Italy's government is campaigning to get Italians to have babies - but what are the reasons behind the slowing birthrate?

Renzi vows to restore quake towns to former glory
Amatrice, the town worst hit by the August 24th quake. Photo: AFP

"The areas will be more beautiful than before," Italy's Prime Minister promised, one month on from the earthquake.

Italy spearheads citizen drive for EU soil policy
Italian farmland. Photo: michael kooiman/Flickr

An area of fertile soil the size of Berlin is lost across the EU each year.

Italian PM dismisses idea of Rome 2024 Olympics
Happier times: Renzi announcing Rome's candidacy for the 2024 Games. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

It looks like it's all over.

Yet another earthquake strikes in central Italy
Damaged houses in Accumoli, where another earthquake has struck. Photo: AFP

Repeated aftershocks since the initial quake have made recovery difficult in the disaster-hit region.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Culture
Eight things you should know about Rome's Spanish Steps
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake
National
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
2,529
jobs available