Jack Torry in our Washington Bureau is reporting that Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said Thursday he doubts Pope Francis was flatly saying New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump is not a Christian for wanting to build a wall on the Mexican border as a way to curb illegal immigration.
Earlier story: The Pope vs. Donald Trump
Speaking to reporters after a town hall meeting at Clemson University just two days before the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, Kasich acknowledged he also wants to build a wall along part of the border, although he suggested the border could also be controlled through technology or other measures recommended by authorities.
But Kasich, while saying he loves the pope, said he heard the pope’s “whole quote” about Trump, adding “I don’t think that’s what he said.”
“The pope’s made a lot of controversial statements like, ‘Who am I to judge?’ ’’ Kasich said. “I don’t know under the context of which he said it, but he’s not a guy who’s been running around wondering who’s pure and who’s not. So if he said that, I’m sure he would regret having said that. Because it’s not up to any of us to judge who’s good and who’s bad.”
Pope Francis, while returning to Rome from a visit to Mexico, told reporters aboard his plane that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”
By injecting himself in the Republican presidential race, Pope Francis placed Kasich and other GOP contenders into the awkward position of either defending the pope’s remarks or defending Trump for proposing a wall that would cost $8 billion. Trump has said he would force Mexico to pay for the wall.
“The pope, in terms of his overall message, has been one of love and compassion,” Kasich said. “I don’t take anything away from the pope. And frankly in many respects I’m not even sure I’m qualified to criticize or comment on remarks from this man. He’s been a remarkable man in bringing lots of people together in this world.”