Donald Trump’s anti-Catholic comments about the Pope on Thursday were no accident.

Trump never speaks without knowing the impact of his words, despite his sometimes careless demeanor.

He has dragged anti-Catholic and anti-papal rhetoric into an election for the first time since John F. Kennedy’s campaign, in 1960, when JFK was forced to explain his faith.

Yesterday, Trump ripped the Pope and his view on immigrants on the eve of the pontiff’s trip to Mexico.

There the beloved pontiff will see first-hand the misery, pain and suffering that drugs and border violence have caused.

Trump rips Pope Francis for visiting Mexican border | Getty

— POLITICO (@politico) February 12, 2016
Trump said the Pope is a very political person and that he totally misunderstood America. He criticized him strongly for going to Mexico.

It is not the first time that Trump has raised Catholic ire. Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York spoke out fearlessly when Trump first began mouthing anti-immigrant slogans.

Cardinal Dolan wrote in Catholic New York, “I am not in the business of telling people what candidates they should support or who deserves their vote. But as a Catholic, I take seriously the Bible’s teaching that we are to welcome the stranger, one of the most frequently mentioned moral imperatives in both the Old and New Testament.”

The latest comments by the billionaire must be seen in the light of Trump going to compete in the GOP primary in South Carolina, perhaps the most anti-Catholic state in America.

Read more: Not a billionaire? Why would you vote for one?

It is home to Bob Jones University, long a bastion of anti-Catholic and racist commentary.

In fact, so anti-Catholic is South Carolina that the Reverend Ian Paisley, at the height of his anti-Catholic career, traveled frequently to Bob Jones University, which gave him an honorary doctorate and praised him for calling the pope the “whore of Babylon.”

As for Bob Jones himself, the following comment is all you need to read: "Pope Paul VI, archpriest of Satan, a deceiver and an anti-Christ, has, like Judas, gone to his own place … A pope must be an opportunist, a tyrant, a hypocrite, and a deceiver or he cannot be a pope.”

By attacking the Pope on Mexican immigration, Trump is sending the dog whistle to two of his most important constituencies: those who are anti-immigration, and the many who are still anti-Catholic.

Throw in the KKK roots of many good old boys in the state and you have the perfect trifecta of hatred.

Of course it has all been gussied up in recent months and years. Bob Jones University apologized for its past transgressions, and the Confederate flag no longer flies at the statehouse despite 50 KKK followers showing up to hurl racist insults.

Read more: Donald Trump reminds Holocaust survivors of Adolf Hitler

But the mass murder last year of nine African American worshipers by the racist Dylann Roof shook up the echoes.

We are told to expect a long and dirty campaign in South Carolina this year. Trump, God bless him, has already kicked it off.

Pope Francis seems tolerant, caring, saintly even. What a wonderful target for a demagogue like Trump to attack.

Trump would be better off celebrating amazing South Carolina residents like Bishop Richard England, a Cork native, who established schools for slaves, became a leading abolitionist and preferred to live and preach among the slaves than dally with high society.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Trump rips Pope Francis for visiting Mexican border <a href=""></a> | Getty <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; POLITICO (@politico) <a href="">February 12, 2016</a></blockquote>
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