Weighing in on last week’s terror in France and the debate over freedom of expression it stirred, Pope Francis said en route to the Philippines on Thursday that, while no one should “kill in the name of God,” neither should they “insult other people’s faith.”
The Pope made clear there was no justification for the killing of 17 people in three separate terror attacks, including a massacre in and around the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The assailants were reportedly Islamist extremists, some of whom called out “Allahu akbar,” which is Arabic for “God is great,” as they singled out the magazine, French authorities and Jewish people.
“One cannot make war (or) kill in the name of one’s own religion,” Francis said on his way to the Philippines. “… To kill in the name of God is an aberration.”
Still, even as he decried the violence and generally spoke in support of freedom of expression, the pontiff said that such freedom must have its limits.
He didn’t mention Charlie Hebdo specifically, or its cartoon depictions of Mohammed, something that many Muslims find offensive. A previous cartoon was one reason the Paris magazine was targeted, and it didn’t back down afterward, with its post-attack cover showing Mohammed again, this time crying and holding a sign with the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie,” French for “I am Charlie.”
Still, even without talking about the magazine by name, the Pope prefaced his remarks by saying, “let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly.” He then referred to recent violence there, as well as the debate about freedom of expression.
Francis said on his flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila that everyone had not only the liberty, but also the obligation, “to say what he thinks to help the common good.”
But he added that this should be done without giving offense, because human dignity should be respected.
If a friend “says a swear word against my mother, then a punch awaits him,” Francis said.
“It’s normal, it’s normal,” he said of such a response. “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”
Philippines welcomes the Pope
Later, Francis arrived in the Philippines, Asia’s most-Catholic nation and one hungry for his arrival.
Everything from the country’s supreme court to backstreet businesses have closed down, but the streets have come alive.
People have been pouring into the capital from all over the country to greet the head of the Catholic Church as he starts his five-day visit.
On street corners, in malls, on public transport, it’s impossible not to feel the presence of the Pope.
Giant billboards with an official red and blue “Pope logo” adorn many of Manila’s buildings, while curbside vendors sell images of his smiling face on everything from stamps and towels to fans and key chains.
Filipinos have been granted a national holiday for the visit, the coast guard has declared a no-sail zone within a mile of Manila Bay, many of the capital’s main roads will be closed, and Manila’s airport has limited its operations.
An estimated 40,000 security personnel will be deployed to keep the Pope safe during his time in Manila and Leyte, where he will celebrate Mass in Tacloban, a city still coming to terms with the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago.