Pope Francis Sends Mixed Message About Violence In The Name Of Religion


Pope Francis spoke to reporters while his plane flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, as the pontiff continues his tour of Asia. Francis has introduced a number of reforms in the Catholic church, and is generally regarded as the most progressive pope in decades. But he had some comments on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and freedom of speech that may surprise some of his supporters.

The pope made it clear to reporters that he condemned the terror attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead. But, while he said that no one should kill in the name of God, he also said that freedom of expression should have limits.

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While the pope didn’t mention Charlie Hebdo by name, there was no doubt that he was referring to the Paris attack on the satirical magazine, when he said, “Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly.” According to CNN, Francis said, “One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion. … To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”

But, according to Time, the pope also said, “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity. I cannot mock a religion that respects human life and the human person.”

Should people of true faith be concerned over insults to that faith?

Pope Francis thinks that reacting violently to someone who insults your religion comes easy for many. Francis used the example of the old schoolyard, “your mom” joke, to make his point. Referring to his aide, Alberto Gasbarri, the pope said,

It’s true that we can’t react violently, but, for example if Dr. Gasbarri here, a great friend of mine, says a curse word against my mother, then a punch awaits him.

It’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.

Recently, the Vatican joined four French imams in condemning the attacks in Paris, while calling for the media to treat religions with respect, according to the Associated Press.

It is not surprising that Pope Francis would take this position on freedom of expression as it relates to religion. After all, progressive or not, he is the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination. What might disappoint some of his fans who are outside the Catholic church is that the pope didn’t make the argument that anyone of strong enough faith should not feel challenged when someone questions or insults that faith. Saying that faith that cannot be destroyed by mere words or images — it seems that would be the truly progressive position.

Image via Yahoo News

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