Does the Pope Endorse Presidential Candidates?

No, the Pope Hasn't Endorsed Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016

Pope Francis
Pope Francis exits the house after speaking at a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis is the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. Win McNamee / Getty Images

The pope often wades into thorny issues such as abortion, immigration, gay marriage and global warming but never explicitly endorses presidential candidates and rarely comments on American elections. There are notable exceptions, however: when the leader of the Catholic church suggested some candidates be refused Communion or that others really aren't Christians.

Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics across the world to get involved in politics, saying it "is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good." And there's a long tradition of popes meeting with U.S. presidents since Pope Benedict XV met with President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Ronald Reagan shared a famous connection with Pope John Paul II because they both had survived assassination attempts.

But this much is true in the 2016 election: the Holy See has not endorsed Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders despite lots of bogus emails and fake news stories that have made the rounds with the help of social media. And he is maintaining a long tradition of popes steering clear of trying to influence the outcome of presidential elections.

Fake News Reports About the Pope

One bogus news report claimed Pope Francis endorsed Trump after the FBI decided not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server. The fake press release purportedly was issued by The Vatican and read:

"The FBI, in refusing to recommend prosecution after admitting that the law had been broken on multiple occasions by Secretary Clinton, has exposed itself as corrupted by political forces that have become far too powerful. Though I don’t agree with Mr. Trump on some issues, I feel that voting against the powerful political forces that have corrupted the entire American federal government is the only option for a nation that desires a government that is truly for the people and by the people. For this primary reason I ask, not as the Holy Father, but as a concerned citizen of the world that Americans vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States.”

Another fake news report claimed the pope endorsed Sanders. While the two met briefly during the 2016 campaign, Pope Francis did not actually say this: 

"The synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulas but free availability of God’s love and forgiveness. I see in Senator Bernard Sanders a man of great integrity and moral conviction, who understands these principles and genuinely wants what’s best for all people."

And yet another fake news report claimed Pope Francis backed Clinton for president:

"With that at the forefront of my mind I must express my strong reservations about Mr. Donald Trump. His demeanor and temperament should preclude him from becoming President. I fear he may be disastrous to the security, stability, and prosperity of the United States and to the world. I believe that Secretary Clinton would be a better, more stable choice."

None of these reports is true. Pope Francis has not, and would not, endorse a candidate for president in 2016 or any other election year.

Controversial Papal Comments on Politics

The pope tries to stay about the political fray. Sometimes it doesn't work. 

Pope Francis made international headlines in February 2016 when he openly suggested Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wasn't actually a Christian because of his plans to block immigrants from entering the United States at the Mexican border.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said. He later clarified that his remarks about Trump should not be considered a "personal attack" on him "not an indication of how to vote." (Trump criticized Pope Francis for the remarks, saying: "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful.")

So no: Pope Francis' comment should not been taken as an endorsement of Trump's general election opponent, Clinton.