Pope Francis Again Criticizes ‘Builders of Walls’

January 25, 2019, 9:00 PM UTC

Pope Francis took a swipe at “builders of walls” Thursday, saying they “sow fear and look to divide people.”

“We know that the father of lies, the devil, prefers a community divided and bickering,” Francis told a crowd of youth in Panama City, according to CNN. The religious leader encouraged the tens of thousands of listeners to be “builders of bridges” instead of walls.

The speech could be seen as a critique of U.S. President Donald Trump, who maintained a 35-day government shutdown in an attempt to achieve the $5.7 billion in funding he needs to build a border wall on the U.S.’s southern border.

Congress reached a deal Friday to temporarily end the shutdown, but Trump maintains that a border wall is an “important part” of border security.

The pontiff has long criticized Trump. In 2016, he said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump responded in a statement, saying “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” and calling Francis’s comments “disgraceful,” CNN reports.

Pope Francis has also criticized Trump for pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change and ending the protections for Dreamers under the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.