The President told the Daily Caller: 'The Pope is handling it, I guess, the best anyone can handle it'

Donald Trump has defended Pope Francis’s handling of the abuse crisis, saying that the Pontiff is handling the situation “the best anyone can handle it”.

In an interview with the Daily Caller, Trump said that the abuse scandal dated back 70 years, and was “one of the sadder stories ’cause I respect so much the Catholic Church.”

Of the multiple abuse allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Trump said: “I’m surprised at McCarrick, everyone knew him and so incredible to see these things.”

Trump’s comments come less than two weeks after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the US, called on the Pope to resign. In an explosive “testimony”, Archbishop Viganò said he had told the Pope about McCarrick’s misconduct as early as 2013.

Viganò further alleged that Francis had made McCarrick a trusted advisor and even reversed Benedict XVI’s attempts to sanction McCarrick.

Trump refused to join the criticism of Pope Francis, saying: “The Pope is handling it, I guess, the best anyone can handle it. How is he going to handle it?”

In 2013 Trump questioned Benedict XVI’s decision to step down, tweeting: “The Pope should not have resigned – he should have lived it out. It hurts him, it hurts the church…” But he soon warmed to Pope Francis, describing him as “a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!”

The two clashed in 2016 after Pope Francis said that if Trump was thinking “only of building walls”, then he was “not a Christian”. But at a friendly Vatican audience the following year, Trump described meeting Francis as the “honour of a lifetime”.