Pope Francis On ‘Charlie Hebdo’: There Are Limits To Free Expression

Pope Francis talks with reporters during his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila, Philippines Thursday

Pope Francis on Thursday said there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults and mocks other people’s religion.

The pope made the comments in relation to attacks by Islamists on the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last week in which 12 people died.

According to the Associated Press, Francis defended free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Many people around the world have defended the right of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in the wake of the massacre at its Paris offices and subsequent attack on a kosher supermarket in which three gunmen killed 17 people.

But recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that denounced the attacks but also urged the media to treat religions with respect.

Pope Francis, who has urged Muslim leaders in particular to speak out against Islamic extremism, went a step further when asked by a French journalist about whether there were limits when freedom of expression meets freedom of religion.

Francis insisted that it was an “aberration” to kill in the name of God and said religion can never be used to justify violence.

“To kill in the name of God is an absurdity,” Pope Francis told reporters aboard a plane travelling from Sri Lanka to the Philippines.

The pope also stated that “each religion has its dignity” and “there are limits.”

“You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it,” said the pontiff.

“Freedom of speech is a right and a duty that must be displayed without offending.

“There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others,” Pope Francis said. “They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”

[Image via ArabNews]