Marine Le Pen criticizes Pope Francis for his pro-immigration stance

(Reuters/Benoit Tessier)Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, attends a news conference in Paris, France, April 10, 2017.

French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has criticized Pope Francis over his pro-immigration stance and denounced the Catholic Church for "meddling" in French politics.

In an interview with La Croix published on Friday, the National Front candidate expressed her frustration at the Church, which she says is interfering in matters which does not concern it.

"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," said Le Pen.

Le Pen, who is currently running a campaign on an anti-immigrant and protectionist platform, openly criticized the pope's stance on migrants.

"The fact that he appeals for charity, for welcoming others, foreigners, does not shock me. But charity should only be personal," the presidential candidate said.

The National Front candidate also accused French bishops of trying to influence the political opinions of voters.

"The Conference of Bishops of France sometimes gets involved in what does not concern it: in particular, giving political directions," said Le Pen.

"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," she added.

Le Pen went on to say that she will invite the pope to France if she wins the election and that she would tell him exactly what she said in the interview with la Croix.

In February, the pope called for a change of attitude towards migrants headed to the EU, saying they should be welcomed with dignity and should not be treated as "unworthy rivals." The pontiff also denounced the "populist rhetoric," which he said was fueling fear across the West.

France is scheduled to hold the first round of voting on April 23, while the run-off for the top two candidates will be held on May 7.

An Ipsos-Sopra Sterna poll has indicated that Le Pen is tied with independent centrist Emmanuel Macron at 22 percent in the first round of voting. Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is not too far behind with 20 percent, while conservative Francois Fillon has 19 percent.

The latest polls have prompted speculations that Le Pen may face Melenchon in the final round of the election that is considered by many pundits too close to call.

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