Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh on Thursday dismissed Pope Francis’ suggestion Donald Trump is “not a Christian” because of the Republican front-runner’s support for a border wall to stop illegal immigration.

“Man, are they pulling out all the stops now,” chortled the broadcast titan. “The pope says that Donald Trump is not a Christian because Christians do not build walls. They build bridges. Never mind that the Vatican is surrounded by a wall, and we won’t even talk about who built that wall. But that’s what the pope said.”

Trump himself seized on the topic of the high walls surrounding the pope’s sovereign mini-state of Vatican City as an opportunity to paint the pope as a hypocrite, re-tweeting images of the huge structures to his more than 6.2 million followers on Twitter.

But Limbaugh pinpointed the pope’s attack on Trump as largely in character for the Roman Catholic leader, who is widely viewed as leaning left.

“Given the pope’s political leanings, I’m surprised he isn’t on the campaign trail for Bernie Sanders,” joked Limbaugh. “Maybe Bernie Sanders is too far to the right for the pope.”

Carl Gallups, the author of “Be Thou Prepared: Equipping The Church For Persecution And Times of Trouble” and the pastor of Hickory Hammock Baptist Church, also dismissed the pope’s comments.

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“Why is the pope so concerned about America’s borders, immigration laws and citizenship requirements when it is a known fact that the Vatican has one of the highest border walls, some of the world’s strictest immigration laws and some of the most stringent citizenship requirements?” asked Gallups.

“I say the pope has no business in America’s business – especially the business of border security and homeland defense. When America can tell the pope how to manage the borders of the Vatican, I would consider listening to his opinions about our laws.”

Gallups also cited Scripture to illustrate what he considers the biblical mandate of national defense.

“What about Israel’s walls? What about Nehemiah’s walls – and defending them with deadly weapons against the terrorists of his day?”

The pope was asked if American Catholics should vote for Trump, and said, “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost experts on immigration policy, had offered similar comments earlier.

“Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem and the Lord commanded him to build a wall,” commented Sessions. “So, [there are] many references in the Old Testament about the legitimacy of nations or countries or tribal areas deciding who goes in and through and who does not. So that’s part of it.”

Gallups argued whatever the pope tells reporters, he clearly believes in security measures when it comes to defending his own sovereign territory and his person.

“If we shouldn’t build walls around our borders – then for the same reasons, the pope should not have walls, security guards, an army, and locks on the doors to his domain,” Gallups told WND. “I agree with Trump on this one: the pope has allowed himself to be used as a pawn by Mexico.”

Rush Limbaugh

Limbaugh dismissed any possibility the pope’s criticism would hurt Trump, arguing it is Francis who may end up with a public-relations fail.

The talk-radio king said Pope Francis “has not hidden his ideological alignment, much less his political alignment,” and so Trump’s supporters are likely to “circle the wagons” to protect their candidate from the attacks of a powerful “establishment” figure.

He also noted the irony of Pope Francis calling Donald Trump’s avowed Christian faith into question when the pontiff seems willing to accept Communist leaders as Christians.

Limbaugh asked: “Has he questioned the faith of the Castro brothers? Has the pope questioned the faith of any Communist leaders?”

He also drew a contrast between the mainstream media’s willingness to question Trump’s faith while taking Obama’s declaration that he’s a Christian at face value, amid all the evidence.

“Don’t anybody ask about the president’s religion!” Limbaugh thundered, tongue in cheek. “Don’t even get close to going there. Don’t do it. That is a forbidden area. You cannot even ask about it. The pope can go ahead and claim that Trump is not a Christian, but you can’t go there when we’re talking about the president of the United States.”

And Limbaugh argued the Vatican is just another institution hollowed out by liberalism.

“If I were a Catholic, I’d be asking what’s going on here,” Limbaugh said of the current church. “I’m talking about just as an ongoing, everyday matter of daily life, one of the most destructive things, if not the most, is radical liberalism, leftism. And it is clear that they are making great strides in corrupting once-great institutions and once-great traditions. And when I say corrupting, I mean taking over and politicizing them for the express purpose of advancing the leftist agenda. And the advancement of the leftist agenda in large part consists of destroying institutions, traditions, people, policies, what have you, that the left considers to be obstacles to their efforts to blow everything up.”

The host added: “You know, folks, I’ve been around so long, I can remember when it was a rhetorical question to ask, ‘Is the pope Catholic?’ Now it’s a legit question.”

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A couple days earlier, the two sides already were engaged over immigration.

Trump criticized the pope’s plan to visit the border, and said, “I think Mexico got him to [visit the border] because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

The Vatican responded with a statement, “The pope always talks about migration problems all around the world, of the duties we have to solve these problems in a humane manner, of hosting those who come from other countries in search of a life of dignity and peace.”

Copyright 2016 WND