Pope: If you insult 'faith,' expect violence to follow

Pope Francis, speaking of last week’s deadly attacks by Islamist militants in Paris, has defended freedom of expression, but said it was wrong to provoke others by insulting their religion and that one could “expect” a reaction to such abuse.

Aboard a plane from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the pontiff also gave one of his clearest statements to date on climate change, saying that he believed that man was primarily responsible and had “gone too far,” and that he hoped this year’s Paris conference would take a courageous stand to protect the environment.

Asked about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression, Francis, who has condemned the Paris terrorist attacks, said: “You can’t provoke, you can’t insult the faith of others, you can’t make fun of faith.”

“I think both freedom of religion and freedom of expression are both fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that he was talking specifically about the Paris killings. “Everyone has not only the freedom and the right but the obligation to say what he thinks for the common good … we have the right to have this freedom openly without offending,” he said.

To illustrate his point, he turned to an aide and said: “It is true that you must not react violently, but although we are good friends if [he] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal.”

Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.

Referring to past religious wars, such as the Crusades sanctioned by the Catholic Church against Islam, the Pope said: “Let’s consider our own history. How many wars of religion have we had? Even we were sinners but you can’t kill in the name of God. That is an aberration.”

The Pope said his long-awaited encyclical on the environment was almost finished and that he hoped it would be published in June, in time provide food for thought ahead of the UN climate meeting Paris in November.

Speaking to reporters, he was asked specifically if humans were mostly to blame for climate change. “I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he said.

“We have, in a sense, lorded it over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth,” said Francis, who since his election in 2013 has made many appeals for the protection of the environment. “I think man has gone too far,” he said. “Thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this.”

Last month, about 190 nations agreed the building blocks of a new-style global deal due in 2015 to combat climate change amid warnings that far tougher action will be needed to limit increases in global temperatures.

Under the deal reached in Lima, governments will submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of March 31, 2015, to form the basis of a global agreement due at a summit in Paris at the end of the year.

He faulted the Peru conference for not doing enough about climate change.

“The Peru meeting was nothing much, it disappointed me. I think there was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. Let’s hope the delegates in Paris will be more courageous and move forward with this,” he said.


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