U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Republican candidate for president, has joined the chorus—including the Israeli government, American Jewish organizations, and pro-Israel media commentators—of those blasting Pope Francis over the Vatican's decision to formally recognize the "State of Palestine."
Rubio, who is Catholic himself, took aim at the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics when asked about the Vatican's position on Palestinian statehood.
"[Israel] is the only free enterprise, democratic, pro-American country in the Middle East. If we had more free enterprise, pro-American democracies in the Middle East, my speech would be a lot shorter,” Rubio said, adding in regards to a two-state solution, “I don’t think the conditions exist for that today.”
As a Cuban American, Rubio's political disagreements with the pope run deeper. The senator has been a leading critic of rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba—a process in which Pope Francis has played a major role. In his latest comments on the issue, Rubio said, “My interest as an elected official is the national security of the United States and embedded in that is the belief that it is not good for our people—or the people of Cuba—for [the U.S. government to re-establish diplomatic relations with] an anti-American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores.”
Covering both the "Palestine" and Cuba issues, Rubio said Pope Francis seeks “peace and prosperity” and “wants everyone to be better off,” yet is not “a political figure.”