It all burst into the open on the papal plane carrying Pope Francis from Mexico back to Rome. In response to a reporter's question about Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Francis answered, "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."
Francis had just spent hours celebrating a Eucharist that tried to build bridges across the U.S.-Mexico border between Cuidad Juárez and El Paso, Texas. People prayed for the legal bridges that would reunite families and for cultural bridges that would deepen understanding.
But Donald Trump wants to build walls while Pope Francis is building bridges. And let's be clear: this is more than a set of images or desires for the U.S.-Mexico border. This is an expression of how each man views humanity. And it's stark. Trump sees the world's people in categories that need to be separated. Francis is about bringing humanity together.
Francis has sought for years to build bridges in the world: His recent meeting with Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is one example; his facilitation of the U.S. opening to Cuba is another; and the latest example is the Mass he celebrated in Ciudad Juárez, where the prayers literally bridged the border.
Francis surely heard about the wall proposed by Trump from the Mexicans themselves. And I'm sure he is informed about the racist characterizations of Mexicans used by Trump. These are walls created and reinforced by words.
Francis himself is Latin American and may have been personally affronted by Trump's characterizations of immigrants as rapists and criminals. Well he might be. I am not Latin American, and I am affronted!
When Trump tries to take on Francis, he just builds new walls -- not only between himself and Francis but also between himself and a large portion of the U.S. electorate. Trump cannot scale that wall. Too many people -- Catholics and others -- love and admire Pope Francis. Trump's rhetoric is a recipe for losing the presidential contest. And if that comes to pass, I will thank Pope Francis.