21/01/2017 6:38 AM AEDT

Pope Francis Sends First Official Telegram To President Donald Trump

The pope issued a pointed challenge.

Max Rossi / Reuters
Pope Francis leads the weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican January 18, 2017.

Pope Francis sent President Donald Trump an official telegram on Inauguration Day ― and the pope wasted no time getting down to business.

Francis used the opportunity to send Trump good wishes and blessings, but also to remind the new president to take care of the poor and marginalized of society. 

“Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need,” Francis said in the telegram.

He then referred to the parable of Lazarus, a poor man who suffered greatly while he lived on earth but who was taken to heaven when he died. Lazurus is often compared to his neighbor, a “rich man” who lived in the lap of luxury on earth, but who was sent to Hades after death.

“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding far-sighted and united political responses, I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide,” the pope wrote in the telegram.

It’s become customary for popes to send good wishes to incoming presidents of the United States. Both Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II have sent these short messages in the past encouraging former presidents to care for the poor and outcast. 

The relationship between Francis and Trump, a professed Presbyterian, has been rocky in the past. Trump has long promised to build a wall on America’s southern border, an idea that Francis has harshly criticized.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis told a reporter when asked about Trump in February.

True to form, Trump condemned the pope’s remarks. He went on to claim that the Mexican government was using the pope as a pawn.

“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Mr. Trump said.