Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, recently clarified his earlier statement arguing that Pope Francis should ask Donald Trump for forgiveness after the pontiff questioned the Christian faith of the GOP frontrunner.
"People have a great respect for the Pope, but they don't look to him for advice on national security," Jeffress told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "I think Protestants and Catholics share a belief in the desire to keep America safe. I think the pontiff is sincere, but I think he's sincerely wrong in saying it's un-Christian to build walls. God told Nehemiah to build a wall around Jerusalem, not to keep the Jews from going outside, but to keep the enemies from coming inside. I think most Americans do know that and they want America kept safe."
Jeffress added that the brief spat between the Pope and the billionaire businessman allowed Americans to "see another side" of Trump: "He was kind of measured in his response and said, 'I think the pope is a great guy.' Donald Trump turning the other cheek -- who'd have thought they would have seen that."
As reported by The Gospel Herald, on a papal plane ride back from Mexico to Italy with reporters earlier this month, Francis said Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border. In response, Trump called the pontiff's comments about him "disgraceful," but later took on a softer tone, saying he would meet with the Pope "anytime he wants."
Speaking during an appearance on Fox News, Jeffress, who also hosts the popular radio program "Pathway to Victory," argued that the pontiff should "ask for Donald Trump's forgiveness for saying such an outlandish thing,."
"I do have to hand it to the pope. He performed a miracle today. He has done what nobody in history's been able to do: He has turned Donald Trump into a martyr," Jeffress said. And I believe because of that, Trump's poll numbers are going to continue to go up, because as much as people respect the pope, they don't want the pope inserting himself in the American election, and they sure don't want to be taking advice from the pope on American security."
During a Dallas campaign rally this week, Jeffress also praised Trump for his dedication to protecting the unborn and proclaimed that the GOP hopeful "loves evangelical Christians."
"He believes in protecting the unborn," the pastor said in endorsing Trump, Real Clear Politics reports. "That is an issue we as Christians care about, and I'll tell you what, some of you who say, well, I don't know if his pro-life conversion was real, let me tell you something, Hillary Clinton doesn't claim any pro-life conversion. if you go for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, there is no doubt you're going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.
He added, "Donald Trump cares about and loves evangelical Christians...I can tell you from personal experience, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House. God bless Donald Trump!"