NEWBERRY, S.C. (Reuters) - Pope Francis's remarks on Thursday that U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is "not Christian" due to his views on immigration sparked jokes on social media, and the pope quickly trended on Twitter in the United States.
The businessman and former reality TV star called the pope's comments "disgraceful" and said he was proud to be a Christian.
Twitter users poked fun at the brouhaha.
"Watching Trump fight with the Pope might be the most fun you can have with your clothes on," tweeted actor Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks).
Television comedy writer Wendy Molyneux (@WendyMolyneux) joked about the controversy by attributing a fake quotation to Trump that mocked the presidential candidate's penchant for bawdy exaggeration.
"'You know, a lot of my friends are Popes, and they love what I'm doing. This one Pope is such a loser. And fat.' - @realDonaldTrump," Molyneux wrote Thursday.
Paul Begala (@PaulBegala), a political consultant who is an adviser to a Super PAC helping Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, said: "How long before realDonaldTrump says the Pope is totally broke. Doesn't own a single golf course. Never even dated a supermodel. #Loser."
"How dare the pope be concerned with the poor & disenfranchised! I mean Jesus never was!" tweeted actor Rainn Wilson (@rainnwilson).
"The Late Show," hosted by comedian Stephen Colbert, tweeted a poll Thursday in which it asked "How can Donald Trump get back in the Pope's good graces?" The options listed were "Cabinet position," "Purchase indulgences," "Evict Protestants" and "Sensual back rub."
Trump, long the leader in national opinion polls, and five Republican rivals face off on Saturday in South Carolina's primary.
While the pope and Trump are now at odds, the real estate developer had previously praised the pontiff.
In 2013, the year Francis began his papacy, Trump compared himself to the pope favourably.
On Christmas Day 2013: Trump tweeted, "The new Pope is a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!"
The pope was not the only powerful figure to run afoul of the Republican candidate on Thursday.
Media titan Rupert Murdoch weighed in on Twitter to contest Trump's claims that Fox News is biased against him after a national poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal showed Senator Ted Cruz inching ahead of Trump.
"Trump blames me for WSJ poll, fights FoxNews," tweeted Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch), executive chairman of both Fox News parent 21st Century Fox Inc and Journal owner News Corp. "Time to calm down. If I running anti-Trump conspiracy then doing lousy job!"
(Additional reporting by Melissa Fares; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)