Christian leaders defend Donald Trump against the Pope.

20 February 2016 1:37 pm

The big news story of the week was the Pope suggesting Donald Trump is not really a Christian. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said when a reporter asked him about Mr. Trump on the papal airliner as he returned to Rome after his six-day visit to Mexico.

Not surprisingly, American evangelists are not coming to the defence of the Donald.

Evangelical leader Jerry Fallwell Jr told CNN that the Pope's comments would cause America's first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, to roll over in his grave.

"I think the Pope is mistaken. I think John F. Kennedy would be rolling over in his grave right now if he could hear what the Pope was saying," Falwell, the son of the late televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr., said. "That's a man who fought to be president against lots of prejudice because many Protestants in this country did not want to elect a Catholic president. He broke down those barriers and here is the Pope trying to say … we have to choose leaders that share his faith, the Christian faith."

In his Facebook post, Reverend. Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical leader who is also the son of the famed Reverend Billy Graham, said the Pontiff should be careful.

“My advice to the Pontiff—reach out and build a bridge to Donald Trump. Who knows where he may be this time next year!,”

Another prominent pastor Robert Jeffress said “I think the Pope needs to ask Donald Trump’s forgiveness for making such an outlandish statement.”

It actually makes sense. Two-thirds of South Carolinians are Protestants, with evangelical voters comprising the largest voting group in the state during its Republican primary.

The evangelical faithful are often suspicious of hierarchical authority, and a Pew Institute study in January said liberal Americans have a more favourable view of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church than conservatives. This could serve in Trump's favor when it comes to the spat between him and the pontiff