In an interview with La Croix International, Le Pen said: “I do not see anything illegal or immoral about giving priority to French citizens in their own country.”
The leader of the Front National said Pope Francis was asking states to disregard their own citizens. She said the Pope demanded “that states go against the interests of their own people by not placing conditions on the acceptance of significant numbers of migrants”.
Le Pen said the religious leader’s pronouncements on immigration exceeded his role as a religious leader of the Catholic Church. “To me, this falls within the realm of politics and even interference, since he is also a head of state.”
Pope Francis is the head of a sovereign state, the walled Vatican City with some of the strictest immigration and citizenship rules in the world.
“The fact that he appeals for charity, for welcoming others, foreigners, does not shock me,” Le Pen said. “But charity should be a personal matter only.” She noted that regarding personal matters, the Catholic Church “has lacked compassion”.
She added: “The Muslim religion has arrived in our country like a tidal wave and radical Islam has begun to apply pressure by means of the veil. It was first banned in schools in 2004. Now, veils are everywhere in the streets.”
In the La Croix interview, Le Pen singled out not only the Pope but France’s bishops too in trying to sway voters’ political opinions to accept immigrants. “The French Bishops’ Conference sometimes meddles in what does not concern it, in particular by giving political instructions,” she said.
“I don’t get involved with what the Pope should say to his followers. I don’t think religions should tell the French people how to vote.”
Le Pen nevertheless defended her faith: “I have a strong faith and I am fortunate in that I have never doubted it. However, I admit that I am angry with the Church because I think that it interferes in everything except what it should really be concerned with.”
If elected, Le Pen said she would meet with the pope “with great pleasure” and gladly repeat what she had told La Croix.
The pope has appealed for greater compassion for migrants and refugees throughout his pontificate and in February spoke of the “moral imperative” to open borders. He said undocumented workers had “inalienable rights” entering European countries.
According to Le Pen, she would welcome a showdown in the second round of the French elections with globalist ex-banker Emmanuel Macron. “I have always said that I’d like to be up against Emmanuel Macron in the second round because then the choice will be clear-cut,” she said.
“He is an unashamed globalist who wants to speed up the total opening of borders, free-exchange, and the evisceration of France in favour of private and financial interests.
“I, on the other hand, propose a return to the nation-state, the most effective structure to ensure security, prosperity, and democracy, and to protect our identity,” she added.
The latest voter polls show that Le Pen may face the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in the final round of an election that has become too close to call.
“Jean-Luc Mélechon is taking an immigrationist and communist stand, which has nothing to do with what I stand for. Now, it’s up to the French people to decide,” she said.
An Ipsos-Sopra Sterna poll showed independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and Le Pen tied with 22 percent in the first round of voting with far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon and conservative Francois Fillon with 20 and 19 percent respectively.