Culture Ethics

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

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

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.”

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Photo courtesy of Valentina Calà via Flickr

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

“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.”

YS/AMB END MCKENNA

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

19 Comments

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  • Sad to see the Pope justify the motivations of the murderers.

    All people deserve respect, but because ideas aren’t people any more than corporations are people, they don’t have inherent respect. Ideas must earn respect through discussion, not through the threat of force – regardless of whether that force is a bullet or a papal punch.

    If you don’t wan’t your idea ridiculed, then don’t hold a ridiculous idea – and certainly don’t expose yourself to the ideas of others and expect your pet idea to be off-limits to discussion (and satire).

    That’s simply part of being in a human community.

  • Dear Pope,

    You seemed like a nice guy.

    But why aren’t your own beliefs and prayers enough for you? Nobody has threatened your right to your religion (except for Islam) and nobody should.

    Is your god so fragile he cannot withstand jokes? You should be embarrassed defending such a wimpy god. Has the Creator of Humor forgotten why he created it?

    You don’t have the right to impose your religious ideas on us. Meanwhile you excuse yourself from our laws. Why are you obstructing justice? Why are you denying access to the pedophilia files in the Vatican?

    How dare a powerful person deny free speech to anyone – let alone those who have rights such as non-believers and non-participants of your religion?

    That is worse than rude of you.

    You are begging for the ridicule you say you don’t want.
    Today Religion comes with a smiley face. It has been tamed by secularism.
    We won’t soon forget what it can do when it is uncivilized.

    – A Friendly Atheist

  • I have a great deal to say on this comment by the Pope, but I don’t really have the time right now.

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

    Why not? Why are you exempt from criticism, satire, or puns? Or are you, as a religious person, demanding rights that rest of us don’t have?

    The worst aspect of this statement, though by far not the most hypocritical, is that Charlie Hebdo published some cartoons. The Islamists responded by murdering 12 people.

    The worst hypocrisy is this: YOU DON’T BELIEVE THIS YOURSELF. The RCC is, according to its press release, the ONE TRUE CHURCH. all of the rest of you are phonies, idol worshippers, or worse. So you get the special right to denigrate others, but they should be prohibited from denigrating you.

    You tell me– and glbt Christians as well, and the churches that accept and embrace them– that I’m intrinsically, morally disordered, and have an inherent tendency towards grave moral evil. Your “princes of the church” claim that I am a threat to marriage, family, and children, that I have lost touch with my humanity. For centuries, you cover up a cult of child molesting priests. You say nothing whole other so-called Christians slander me and mine.

    But if I dare criticize you and your faith for any of this, why, I should not be allowed to hurt your oh-so-delicate feelings.

    Please.

    More when I actually have time to write.

    If you want your religious beliefs to be respected, then maybe you should have respectable religious beliefs.

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

    Oh, yes you do.
    Unfortunately for the Pope, religion is an engine of ignorance.

    “Execute my enemies in front of me,” JESUS SAID (LUKE 19:27)

  • C’mon Max, you know that Pope Francis is correct on this one (for once in his life).

    We all agree that the idiot Vomit Rag Charlie Hebdo people didn’t deserve to be assassinated, but they DID mess up like a bunch of dog-eared half-baked rot-gut pole-cat var-mints.

    Which sometimes bring on bad outcomes, as it were.

  • Doc,

    “they DID mess up like a bunch of dog-eared half-baked rot-gut pole-cat var-mints.”

    Wrong, as usual.

    Religion is an infection on humanity. HEBDO is an Antibiotic.
    Religion is enslavement. HEBDO is liberation.
    Religion is an assault on Reason. HEBDO took the bullet for Reason.

    Religion is a coward and it encourages cowardice, fear, self loathing and filth – HEBDO was shower of clean, fresh water.

    No self-respecting person surrenders freedom of speech under any circumstance – especially under the commands of IGNORANT MULLAHS and bullying clerics (of all the worthless people!) who have nothing but fear and garbage to spread around the world!

    I’m sorry you can’t see the HEBDO heroes who stand up in front of your face. They are braver and truer than anybody else in the world right now and they need our help.

    Your ignorant Pope needs a schooling in Freedom.

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  • “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    There was the First Aion Age when Jesus was walking the Earth and arguing with the Pharisees, which corresponds to when Jesus said “This age” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)

    There was the Second Aion Age when Jesus was dead in the tomb, which corresponds to when Jesus said “the age to come” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31-32)

    There is a the Third Aion Age when Jesus was resurrected alive again and also is the Age when Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit is forgiven and is also the age that we are in now. This age goes on for eternity.

    Thus ALL GO TO HEAVEN and nothing changed about grace.
    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the term word for unbelief.
    ALL GO TO HEAVEN BECAUSE unbelief is forgiven.

    A Time in the Life of Jesus is an Age because Jesus is God and is that important.

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    Matthew 12:32 is when Jesus canceled the Old Code of the law found in Matthew 12:31.

    “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:31)

    “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ” (Bible, New Testament, Matthew 12:32)

    In the Third age blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is forgiven along with all sins.

    Jesus died for You You will go to heaven.

  • Christopher Sadoun,

    “Jesus died for You so You will go to heaven.”

    Really? What sense does this make?
    God became Jesus so later he could die to help humans go to heaven after they die?
    Why go through all that? Can’t God just save them?

    The world does not need these silly fables.

    ____
    AM
    for Peace, Culture and the Separation of Church and State

  • That is a poor understanding of a parable describing a King’s behavior with lazy and rebellious servants. Kings in those days isolated their enemies, and eliminated them. A parables simply describes human behavior, and does not approve that action; the woman who was persistent to get the judge to see things her way, or the rebellious son who refused to go and work his Dad’s fields…Jesus was not teaching that behavior, but using it as a teaching example. Should our children be Prodigals, or our daughters be late for weddings? Of course not…but there are consequences for our actions…a more intelligent and kind reading of the parables is in order, friend. imho.

  • @Thomas Fowler,

    “a more intelligent and kind reading of the parables is in order, friend. imho.”

    Is that your approach to Islam too? as in,
    “Slay them wherever you find them” – (Surah 9:2)

    The parable of the minas is despicable. Jesus threatens his followers to behave like the servants. Are you really going to say that deserves ‘a kind reading’?

    Isn’t it time we stop apologizing for these insipid stories? Honesty commands it.

  • Does this apply to Protestants who still hold the view that the Pope is the Antichrist and the catholic church the harlot church ? this is the Westminster and Protestant confession ! !

    BTW Jesus said that blasphemy against Him He will forgive but He will not forgive blashphemy against the Holy Spirit!

    http://vimeo.com/113538487

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