Steve Bannon has used a new interview to attack the Pope over his anti-populism, as the former Trump adviser ramps up his message ahead of the European elections.
In an interview with NBC News, to be broadcast in the US on Sunday night, Mr Bannon said the Pontiff should stay out of politics.
“He’s the administrator of the church, and he’s also a politician. This is the problem,” said Mr Bannon. “He’s constantly putting all the faults in the world on the populist nationalist movement.”
The Pope’s remarks about social justice have frequently irked Mr Bannon and his ideological mindfellows, like the US president.
When Pope Francis visited Mexico in February 2016 and said that building walls between countries was not Christian, Mr Trump said his remarks were “disgraceful”.
In January, asked in Panama again about Mr Trump’s border wall, the Pope replied: “It is the fear that makes us crazy.”
Mr Bannon said that the Pope’s warning about the resurgence of populist movements – two years ago he cautioned that it could lead to the election of leaders like Hitler – was misplaced.
“You can go around Europe and it’s [populism] catching fire, and the Pope is just dead wrong,” he said, in an interview with NBC News to be broadcast on Sunday.
On Saturday it emerged that Mr Bannon advised far-Right Italian politician Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, to attack the Pope over the issue of migration.
“Bannon advised Salvini himself that the actual Pope is a sort of enemy,” said an insider in the Northern League, Mr Salvini’s party.
“He suggested for sure to attack, frontally.”
After their 2016 meeting, Mr Salvini became more outspoken against the Pope, claiming that conservatives in the Vatican were on his side.
One tweet from Mr Salvini’s account, in May 2016, said: “The pope says migrants are not a danger. Whatever!
“Uncontrolled immigration, an organised and financed invasion, brings chaos and problems, not peace.”
Mr Bannon, who left the White House in August 2017, has spent much of his time in recent months attempting to spread his nationalist message throughout Europe.
His Italian base is outside of Rome, in the summer home of Pope Innocent III, the Trisulti monastery. From there he works with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a right-wing think tank.
But there are signs Mr Bannon’s ambitious project may not be getting off the ground. Several Right-wing leaders, including Marine Le Pen, have distanced themselves from him, and plans for a major summit have reportedly stalled.
Mr Bannon also alleged, in his NBC interview, that Francis has mismanaged numerous sex abuse scandals roiling the church, and said the Pope was not treating the issue seriously enough.
"The Catholic Church is heading to a financial crisis that will lead to a bankruptcy," he said.
"It could actually bring down, not the theology, not the teachings, not the community of the Catholic Church, but the physical and financial apparatus of this church."