Pope Francis’s remarks on Thursday that U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is “not Christian” due to his views on immigration sparked jokes on social media.
The pope quickly became the top-trending topic on Twitter in the United States after news of his comments came out around noon EST (1700 GMT).
The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics was winning the battle on social media: Overall sentiment for Trump was negative, while overall sentiment for Francis was positive, according to social media analytic firm Zoomph.
The pope said that a person who thinks only about building walls was not Christian, alluding to Trump’s proposed plan to build a barrier on the United States’ border with Mexico in order to keep out illegal immigrants.
The billionaire businessman and former reality TV star called the pope’s comments “disgraceful” and said he was proud to be a Christian. Trump, long the leader in national opinion polls, and five rivals face off on Saturday in South Carolina’s Republican primary.
Twitter users expressed surprise and poked fun at the brouhaha.
“Holy smokes! Just when you think you’ve seen it all, war of words breaks out between @realDonaldTrump and @Pontifex!” tweeted David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod), President Barack Obama’s former chief campaign strategist.
“Watching Trump fight with the Pope might be the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” tweeted actor Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks).
Paul Begala (@PaulBegala), a political consultant who is an adviser to a Super PAC helping Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said: “How long before realDonaldTrump says the Pope is totally broke. Doesn’t own a single golf course. Never even dated a supermodel. #Loser.” (Additional reporting by Melissa Fares; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)