Why the Pope won't forgive Donald Trump

From Thursday's sparring, it is clear The Donald has fallen from grace at the Vatican and he retorted by terming the Pope's remarks as 'disgraceful'.

By Allan Jacob

Published: Fri 19 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 20 Feb 2016, 7:48 AM

Who am I to judge?" Pope Francis famously quipped when asked about his stance on gays two years ago. He was lauded back then. On Thursday, he broke that righteous covenant when he decided to play both judge and politician by questioning Donald Trump's religious behaviour- which is not a holy thing to do. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian ," said the head of the Catholic church. Of course, we know The Donald (as his supporters like to call him) is not a practising Christian. He's not even Catholic, or conservative, but Presbyterian - with German roots - who's trying to find the Lord during his rounds of America's Bible belt. He's not a proselytiser, but a campaigner, who's happy rubbing friends and foes the wrong way as he converts his money for votes in the biggest race of his life. This is his calling, he believes. So why is the Vatican taking him seriously?
Politically, the Pope's comments may have come at the most inopportune time for the tycoon, who's busy spending his own money for the sake of the country - to Make America Great Again. Now, isn't that a charitable thing to do when other White House hopefuls are busy funding their campaigns through public funds? Or is the Pope taking his pastoral role too seriously while dishing it out to the politician who could be America's next president, whether the Vatican likes it or not?
''It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,'' according to the Gospels. But this Pope is in campaign mode and appears selective in his quoting of the scriptures. He's itching for a fight of presidential proportions, apparently piqued by the Republican frontrunner's stance on immigration and Muslims, but there's more to their verbal jousting. It goes back to the summer of 2015 when Trump took the fight to the Vatican by calling Francis 'political', which is indeed true because the Pontiff considers himself a peacemaker, winning the hearts of politicians of varied hues and ideologies across the world. He cuts across party lines, to put it simply.
Francis was instrumental in brokering a deal between Cuba and the United States, and even managed to bring together the Palestinian and Israeli leadership for a "prayer meeting at the Vatican", though nothing came of it. This papacy is in activist mode, one that sees itself playing a larger role outside the Vatican. One is tempted to call it a disruptive role for peace, but forgiveness (for Trump), it seems, is not part of deal.
For the record, Trump has said he will build a $8 billion wall on the border with Mexico. There are some 11 million illegal migrants in the United States and Trump believes they should be sent them back to their home countries, mainly Mexico. One wonders if some imaginary missionary zeal is driving these two men who often speak their minds and get into trouble for it.
So just when some Republican top brass are coming around to like Trump based on his current winning form, the Pope's remarks could pull him down, which will give the loose-mouthed billionaire real estate moghul campaign managers some sleepless nights and groggy heads.
From Thursday's sparring, it is clear The Donald has fallen from grace at the Vatican and he retorted by terming the Pope's remarks as 'disgraceful', only to later say that he did not like fighting with him.
Trump's in the business of winning votes, not souls. The Pope wants souls and more, and he has nothing to lose. Trump veered off script when he targetted Muslims and immigrants and made political capital of it.
The Pope likes his flights to world capitals, while Trump has come all the way in the Republican race only to face an adversary of global standing, who could swing Latino and Catholic votes if it comes to the crunch. Francis didn't ask Catholics not to vote for the developer-politician, but he sent a clever political message to the media savvy Trump: stay off my political turf, or I won't leave you in peace.
- allan@khaleejtimes.com

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