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Pope Francis: There are Limits to Freedom of Speech

On the Papal charter plane to the Philippines, Pope Francis told media that there are “limits to freedom of speech, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.” The Pope was referring to the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo studios in Paris, France. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The pope said that free speech is a fundamental human right and that each person has a duty to “speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.”

So, what is the definition of the common good? The pope is essentially saying that if something offends another religion, it undermines the common good, since the Papal understanding of the common good would be that all religions unite together. The ecumenical movement then is the “common good” and anything that works against the ecumenical movement is an insult and must not be said.

The pope had Alberto Gasparri, the organizer of Papal trips, standing beside him on the plane. “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri 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.”

The Papacy is the “mother church” according to Rome. Perhaps the pope was aiming his remarks at those who oppose Rome.

Speaking of the Charlie Hebdo incident, in which three gunmen killed 17 people, the pope said such horrific violence in God’s name couldn’t be justified and was an “aberration.” But he said a reaction of some sort (to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons) was to be expected.

Millions have marched in Paris and other places in Europe to defend the right of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, which Muslims consider to be inflammatory. The pope is suggesting that freedom of speech has its limits. Some countries have laws against Holocaust denial and racially motivated hate speech.

The pope and four French imams recently issued a joint declaration denouncing the Paris massacre and asking the media to treat religions with respect.

In response to a question from a French journalist, the pope said, “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 other words, the pope suggested that certain uses of freedom of speech would lead to undesirable consequences.

Meanwhile Charlie Hebdo magazine published another cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on the cover of its magazine. The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, urged “respect for each other’s values” amid anger in the Islamic world over the new edition of the magazine. “We believe that sanctities need to be respected and unless we learn to respect one another it will be very difficult in a world of different views and different cultures and civilisations,” Zarif told reporters.

Though Iran denounced the massacre on the day it happened, Zarif told reporters, “We won’t be able to engage in a serious dialogue if we start disrespecting each other’s values and sanctities… And I think we would have a much safer, much more prudent world if we were to engage in serious dialogue, serious debate about our differences,” he added. “Then we will find out that what binds us together is far greater than that what divides us.”

Turkey also condemned publication in a Turkish periodical of the cartoon depicting Muhammad originally published in the post-massacre issue of Charlie Hebdo, saying that it was an “open provocation,” and will not “tolerate insults of Mohammad.” “Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara. “As the government, we cannot put side-by-side the freedom of press and the lowness to insult.

The pope, the Iranian foreign minister, the Turkish government, and no doubt others, are uniting together calling for limits on free speech in order to have religious peace.

Will limits on freedom of speech one day also extend to the proclamation of the Bible’s message concerning true worship and God’s last message to come out of the fallen churches of Babylon?

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” Revelation 18:4, 5

“Let not those who write for our papers make unkind thrusts and allusions that will certainly do harm, and that will hedge up the way and hinder us from doing the work that we should do in order to reach all classes, the Catholics included. It is our work to speak the truth in love, and not to mix in with the truth the unsanctified elements of the natural heart, and speak things that savor of the same spirit possessed by our enemies. All sharp thrusts will come back upon us in double measure when the power is in the hands of those who can exercise it for our injury. Over and over the message has been given to me that we are not to say one word, not to publish one sentence, especially by way of personalities, unless positively essential in vindicating the truth, that will stir up our enemies against us, and arouse their passions to a white heat. Our work will soon be closed up, and soon the time of trouble, such as never was, will come upon us, of which we have but little idea.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, page 60

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