Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith, in comments that the Vatican later said Friday did not mean justifying the attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines on Thursday, 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 Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.
“If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis 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.”
His pretend punch aside, Francis by no means said the violent attack on Charlie Hebdo was justified. Quite the opposite: He said such horrific violence in God’s name couldn’t be justified and was an “aberration.” But he said a reaction of some sort was to be expected.
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, issued a statement early Friday stressing that the pope was by no means justifying the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
“Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight,” he said in a statement.
He said Francis’ words were “spoken colloquially and in a friendly, intimate manner among colleagues and friends on the journey.” He noted that Francis has spoken out clearly against the Paris attacks and that violence in God’s name can never be justified.
By NICOLE WINFIELD – Associated Press –