Pope Francis on free speech: ‘You cannot insult the faith of others’

c. 2015 Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Thursday (Jan. 15) condemned last week’s terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo but warned there were limits on freedom of expression.

Speaking to journalists as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines on a weeklong visit to Asia, the pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” and stressed that killing in the name of God was an unacceptable “aberration.”

“You don’t kill in God’s name,” Francis said.

However the pope, who has made a point of reaching out to Muslims, Jews and other faiths, said there were limits to self-expression when it involved insulting or ridiculing people’s faith.

“You cannot provoke, you cannot insult the faith of others,” he said. “You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

By way of example, the pope referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes the papal trips and was beside him on the plane.

He said if Gasparri cursed his mother, he could “expect a punch,” and at that point he gestured with a fake punch towards him, saying: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Freedom of expression has remained a hotly contested issue since Islamist terrorists stormed the office of the weekly known for mocking Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Several cartoonists were killed in the first of three days of terror attacks that rocked France and claimed the lives of 17 victims and three terrorists.

On Jan. 8, four French imams on a visit to the Vatican issued a statement denouncing the violence and appealing to people whatever their faith to do more to promote a “culture of peace and hope.”

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Peggy Wilson

I agree, I think the Catholics know what a slippery slope that is. We cannot forget Poland and how the Catholics would put down the Jews and then when the Nazis came in and set up the death camps their Catholic eyes were opened to how terrible humans can be when we put each other down simply for a different faith and view them as nothing. Pope Francis’ statements reiterate the belief in the value of life – every life and respect has to exists if we want peace and that is what God wants for all of us.

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