WASHINGTON -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said he disagrees with Pope Francis' call to fight climate change and thinks the pope should not delve into the issue because he "is not a scientist."
"He's not a scientist, he's a religious leader," Bush said, according to a video posted by the Democratic opposition research group American Bridge.
Speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Bristol, Virginia, the GOP presidential hopeful continued to stress his opposition to President Barack Obama's climate policies and promoted his view that focusing on economic growth is more important. Bush said he respects the pope's opinion and that the pope "is not wrong," but he believes Francis should stay out of political issues.
"Put aside Pope Francis on the subject of any political conversation," he said. "I oppose the president's policy as it relates to climate change because it will destroy the ability to re-industrialize the country, to allow for people to get higher wage jobs, for people to rise up."
Bush, who is Catholic, was one of several GOP candidates who saw Francis during his visit to Washington, D.C. During his three-day U.S. trip, the pontiff has made climate change a key part of his message. In his address to Congress on Thursday, he called on leaders to take "courageous actions and strategies" to address and combat climate change.
"I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States -- and this Congress -- have an important role to play," he said.
His words echoed those of his encyclical, released in June, that extensively made the case for treating the fight against climate change as a moral issue.
At the time, GOP presidential candidate and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) made the same accusation as Bush, saying that the pontiff should "leave science to the scientists." However, Francis holds a degree as a chemical technician and worked as a chemist before becoming a priest.
Watch Bush's comments in the video above.