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Coming up trumps

The visit of Pope Francis to Ciudad Juárez to stand with people fleeing violence and poverty and gaze through the wire fence from the Mexican side of the border into the United States of America (US) has got right up the nose of the flamboyant American presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

Trump was quoted on February 11 as describing the pope as a highly political person who does not understand the dangerous implications of the compassion he shows for migrants and people of the move.

In fact, he went as far as calling Pope Francis a political pawn of the Mexican government, when he said, “Mexico got him to do it, because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is, because they’re making a fortune we are losing.”

However, it now seems that Trump has now got up the nose of the pope as well. During his inflight press conference between Mexico and Rome, Pope Francis said, “Thank God he said I am a politician,” as Aristotle says that makes me human.

He then went on to ask, “Am I a pawn? I’ll let you and the people be the judge. A person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not a Christian. This is not the gospel.”

These are strong words coming from a pope, with possible damaging prospects for Trump, as paying at least lip-service to God, and in some parts Christianity, can be a decisive factor in winning the support of the American public.

Trump is also telling the pope to butt out and implicitly calling on the basic principle of the separation of Church and state—which Pope Francis has strongly advocated during his papacy.

However, Pope Francis is speaking from the perspective of faith in the values articulated by and witnessed to by Jesus Christ, and faith is not the Church and nor are politics the state.

Trump may also be implying that religion should be kept in the cupboard and not allowed to mingle in the public square, whereas the pope is speaking out of his belief that even the public square is subject to moral scrutiny, and most certainly the scrutiny of faith.

While Pope Francis trod carefully, saying, “I can only say that that such a man is not a Christian if he really spoke that way and said those things,” he also added that this is a different question from whether someone should vote for him or not, clearly separating the political dynamic that operates in all human societies from the party political.

The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, put a bit of balance on the argument when he said that the pope is asking us to see our brothers and sisters—north and south—as fellow pilgrims journeying toward Christ. “We will recall this profound unity and sense of solidarity in a special way.”

One of the last of the few theologically literate world leaders, Australia’s Kevin Rudd, once said that if his government was not at odds with the Church over something, he would be worried—not about his government, but about the Church.


But in the long run what really matters is that it is the people who come up trumps. JiM