Pope on Charlie Hebdo: There are limits to free expression

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:32 pm IST

Published - January 16, 2015 12:20 am IST - ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE

Pope Francis (C) disembarks from a passenger jet with his aides upon his arrival at Villamor Air Base for a state and pastoral visit, in Manila January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano (PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Pope Francis (C) disembarks from a passenger jet with his aides upon his arrival at Villamor Air Base for a state and pastoral visit, in Manila January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano (PHILIPPINES - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Pope Francis said on Thursday there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

He spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending 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,” he said half—jokingly, throwing a mock 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 by Islamic extremists at its Paris offices and subsequent attack on a kosher supermarket in which three gunmen killed 17 people.

Others, though, have noted that in virtually all societies, freedom of speech has its limits, from laws against Holocaust denial to racially motivated hate speech.

Recently the Vatican and four prominent French imams issued a joint declaration that, while denouncing the Paris attacks, urged the media to treat religions with respect.

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

“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,” he 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.”

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the Vatican has sought to downplay reports that it is a potential target for Islamic extremists, saying it is being vigilant but has received no specific threat.

Francis said he was concerned primarily for the safety of the faithful who come to see him in droves, and said he had spoken to Vatican security officials who are taking “prudent and secure measures.”

“I am worried, but you know I have a defect- a good dose of carelessness. I’m careless about these things,” he said. But he admitted that in his prayers, he had asked that if something were to happen to him that “it doesn’t hurt, because I’m not very courageous when it comes to pain. I’m very timid.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.