ANDERSON, S.C. -- Marco Rubio avoided getting into the weeds Thursday of a war of words between rival Donald Trump and Pope Francis after the head of the Roman Catholic Church suggested Trump's plan to build a wall along the Mexican border was not Christian.
Asked about Francis' rebuke, Rubio told reporters he hadn't read the pope's remarks. But he defended his support for border control measures.
"We're a sovereign country. We have a right to control who comes in, when they come in and how they come in," Rubio said. "Vatican City controls who comes in, when they come and how they come in, as a city-state. And as a result, the United States has a right to do that as well."
Francis' comment, in response to a reporter's question on a flight back to the Vatican from Mexico, roiled the U.S. Republican presidential race, where all candidates support at least a partial wall to keep people from entering the country illegally.
Trump said it was "disgraceful" for the pope to question his faith.
Rubio didn't weigh in on that either.
"As a Roman Catholic, he's the head of the church, the successor of Peter, is what I believe, and I have tremendous respect and admiration for him," Rubio said. "I'm an elected official in the United States of America and the federal government, and our Number One obligation is to keep people safe. And our immigration system is part of that."
Francis also indicated contraception in regions struck by the Zika virus might be OK with the church.
"In America, contraception is legal," Rubio quipped, adding that he would keep it that way.