Plane Talk on Bridge-Building

After making history with tough talk to bishops and politicians on the ground in Mexico, Pope Francis was not done in the skies above on the way home to Rome on Feb. 17. During one of his back-of-the-plane press conferences, the pope was drawn into the U.S. presidential race by a reporter’s question about the Republican candidate Donald J. Trump. Trump has already announced that were he to become president, he would deport 11 million undocumented people from the United States and build a presumably impenetrable wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,” Pope Francis said. Asked “if an American Catholic could vote for a person like this,” Francis responded, “I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he says things like that.”

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He added, “We must see if he said things in that way, and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

Pope Francis also waded into the debate over the use of contraception in South American regions affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been tentatively linked to the birth defect microcephaly. While the pope deplored abortion in response to the crisis as a “crime, an absolute evil,” he left open the possibility of “avoiding pregnancy” until the crisis abates.

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