Catholics’ Pope Francis ended his recent “pastoral visit” to Mexico with a Mass on the southern side of the Rio Grande River, which forms much of the border between Mexico and the United States.
As he flew home, a reporter asked him about his thoughts regarding U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall, in order to close off the border to illegal aliens, coming from Mexico. The pontiff said that a person who advocates building walls, instead of bridges, is “not Christian.”
A spokesman for the Pope later insisted that Francis often speaks about building bridges–not walls–and that his remark wasn’t “a personal attack” on the business mogul running for the Republican presidential nomination.
Upon hearing of the Pope’s remarks, Donald Trump reacted, saying it was “disgraceful” to question a person’s faith. His campaign’s director of social media tweeted that the pontiff’s remarks were “Amazing comments from the Pope- considering Vatican City is 100% surrounded by massive walls.”
The “massive walls” he referenced were commissioned by Pope Leo IV in the ninth century, following the sacking by Arabic-Muslim raiders (sometimes called Saracens) of Old St. Peter’s Basilica and the church of St. Paul outside the Walls, in A.D. 846. Completed in A.D. 852, this three kilometer, 40-foot-high wall completely encircled the Vatican Hill, on the opposite side of the Tiber River from the Seven Hills of Rome. This area was not enclosed within the ancient city’s Aurelian Walls, built between A.D. 271 and 275, to protect early Rome from the barbarian invaders from the north.
So, the Pope’s “wall” was built to protect religious rights and properties against jihadi, Islamic plunderers crossing the Tiber River. And, Mr. Trump’s “wall” would protect against illegal aliens (including possible jihadi terrorists of the Islamic State) crossing the Rio Grande River and other access points in the border between two sovereign states.
Let’s all consider the purpose for both “walls” and their possible place in civil society, national sovereignty, and religious liberties.