Pope Francis is questioning Donald Trump’s faith

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WASHINGTON (AP): The Latest on the 2016 campaign for president (all times local)

12:26 p.m.

Donald Trump says a religious leader questioning a person’s faith is “disgraceful,” responding forcefully to comments from Pope Francis that anyone who wants to build a border wall isn’t a Christian.

The Republican candidate for president says Thursday the Pope should wish that he is elected to the White House, and he accused the Mexican government of using Francis as a “pawn” and says the leader of the Roman Catholic Church “only heard one side of the story.”

Pope Francis spoke as he traveled home from a visit to Mexico. When asked about Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, Francis said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump replied to the Pope during a campaign stop in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. He says, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.”

Trump went on to say, “for religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” Trump says.

12:07 p.m.

Asked about Donald Trump’s views on immigration, Pope Francis says anyone who wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border isn’t Christian.

Trump has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border from Texas to California and expel 11 million people who are in the country illegally if elected president. The Pope’s comments en route home from Mexico came hours after he prayed at the Mexico-U.S. border for migrants who died trying to reach the United States.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said. “This is not in the Gospel.”

Not having heard Trump’s border plans independently, Francis said he’d “give him the benefit of the doubt.” But he added:

“I’d just say that this man is not Christian if he said it this way,” Francis said.

11:30 a.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is meeting with civil rights leaders in Washington, vowing to help black Americans escape poverty, protect voting rights and any nomination President Barack Obama nominates to the Supreme Court.

The Democratic presidential candidate says it’s “incomprehensible” that Senate Republicans are refusing to honor President Barack Obama’s right under the Constitution to nominate a successor to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Sanders says he will “do everything I can to support the president’s nominee.”

10:45 a.m.

John Kasich says he’s not staying in South Carolina on Saturday night to await results of the state’s Republican presidential primary.

Kasich is heading that day to campaign in Vermont and Massachusetts instead. Both states hold their primaries on March 1.

Kasich was campaigning in Charleston on Thursday morning. The Ohio governor says he’s going to “work like crazy” in South Carolina over the next two days. He says, “We’re spending a little bit more money here and hopefully we’ll do well.”

Kasich finished second to Donald Trump in last week’s New Hampshire primary.

10:40 a.m.

More than 300 pastors and other religious leaders in South Carolina have endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president.

Cruz announced the endorsements on Thursday in Greenville, South Carolina, two days before the state’s primary.

Cruz’s win in the Iowa caucuses was fueled by a similar coalition of evangelical support, and he is counting on their backing to do well in South Carolina.

Cruz says in a statement announcing the endorsements he believes they send a “strong signal” that conservatives are uniting behind his campaign. Cruz says he has support from religious leaders in every South Carolina county.

On Wednesday, Cruz rival Marco Rubio won the endorsement of the state’s governor, Nikki Haley. The Florida senator is campaigning across the state with Haley on Thursday.
10:38 a.m.

A spokesman says Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders doesn’t “believe that gender should be the reason we vote for or against anyone.”

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs on Thursday distanced the Vermont senator from comments made by rapper Killer Mike at a recent Sanders rally in Atlanta.

Killer Mike told supporters on Tuesday that “a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be president of the United States,” a reference to Sanders’ Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Briggs says the artist was quoting activist Jane Elliott and was saying “we need to get beyond gotcha politics and get to the issues at the heart of the election.”

Killer Mike is the latest Sanders supporter to make impolitic comments about Clinton heading into the primary elections in Nevada and South Carolina.

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