Marco Rubio sides with Donald Trump in spat with the Pope

Story highlights

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday
  • He responded to remarks the Pope made referencing Donald Trump's immigration plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Rubio defended the idea of securing the border

(CNN)Donald Trump is waging a holy war against Pope Francis after the Holy Father waded into the 2016 presidential race and suggested the Republican presidential front-runner was "not a Christian" because he has proposed erecting a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Now, one of Trump's rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio, is taking the real-estate mogul's side in the spat with the Vatican.
When asked by CNN on "The Lead with Jake Tapper" about the Pope's remarks, Rubio gave a lengthy defense of the United States as the "most compassionate and open country in the world on legal immigration," and defended the government's right to implement and enforce immigration laws as it sees fit.
"I think the Holy Father recognizes or should recognize -- and I believe he does -- how generous America is," Rubio said. "We accept, every year, close to a million or over a million people every year as permanent residents of the United States. No other country even comes close."
    Pope Francis on Thursday, in responding to a question about Trump, had levied a charge that his immigration policy, which centers on forcing Mexico to pay for a mammoth wall across the length of the southern border, is counter to the gospel.
    "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel," the Pope told journalists.
    But Rubio, in his forceful answer, suggested that Pope Francis may not fully grasp the current immigration battle being fought on the presidential campaign and that building walls is not simply about barring immigrants from the United States.
    "As far as building walls on the border, the wall is not just about immigrants," Rubio said. "It's also about, potentially, terrorists crossing that border, not to mention the drugs that are coming across that border and the human trafficking that's occurring because people know they can get people across the border."