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Trump Is Defiant After Pope Criticizes His Plan To Build Border Wall


With the South Carolina Republican primary just one day away, Donald Trump is not only sparring with his Republican rivals. Yesterday, he clashed with a higher authority. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports from Spartanburg.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Donald Trump's promise to fight illegal immigration has been a focus of his campaign. It's now brought him criticism from the pope.

POPE FRANCIS: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCAMMON: On his way home from a visit to Mexico, a reporter asked Pope Francis about Trump's position. The pontiff responded, a person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be and not building bridges is not Christian.

FRANCIS: (Foreign language spoken).

MCCAMMON: It wasn't long before Trump shot back from the campaign trail in South Carolina, reading from a statement.


DONALD TRUMP: If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would've been president.

MCCAMMON: Trump also retweeted photos of the wall around the Vatican. Later on, at a rally in the small town of Gaffney, Trump didn't mention the pope but reiterated his pledge.


TRUMP: We're going to have the wall. We're building the wall. We're building the wall, folks. We're building the wall.


MCCAMMON: That went over well with supporters like Ann Mullins of Gaffney.

ANN MULLINS: I don't think he needs to say that somebody's not a Christian. You're not supposed to judge. Only God should do that.

MCCAMMON: I mean, can't the pope judge, though? The pope is the pope.

MULLINS: Well, he's not God. He's the pope.

MCCAMMON: To be fair, Mullins is Baptist, not Catholic, so she can kind of take or leave the pope's opinion. The overwhelming majority of GOP primary voters here are Protestant. Dan Yarborough of Spartanburg is a Methodist, and he agrees.

DAN YARBOROUGH: As far as I know, the Vatican has walls to keep people out at the Vatican. So I guess when he tears down the Vatican wall, then he'd have reason to talk about anything else being built.

MCCAMMON: Yarborough says he thinks the pope is a great man, but his opinion is just an opinion, and he's siding with Donald Trump. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Spartanburg, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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