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Pope Francis Backs Freedom Of Speech — But Within Limits

Pope Francis disembarks from the plane upon his arrival at the airport in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday. In comments to reporters aboard the plane, Francis said though the attack on <em>Charlie Hebdo</em> magazine was an "aberration," free speech "cannot make provocations," especially against people's faith.
Ettore Ferrari
/
EPA/Landov
Pope Francis disembarks from the plane upon his arrival at the airport in Manila, Philippines, on Wednesday. In comments to reporters aboard the plane, Francis said though the attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine was an "aberration," free speech "cannot make provocations," especially against people's faith.

Pope Francis says there are limits to freedom of speech, especially when it comes to someone's religion, in comments that made reference to the deadly attack last week on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Francis defended freedom of speech, calling it a fundamental human right, but said it must not cause offense.

"It is true we cannot react violently," he told reporters today on the papal plane en route to the Philippines. "But if Dr. [Alberto] Gasbarri here, a great friend, were to say something insulting against my mother, a punch awaits him."

Gasbarri, the official who organizes papal trips, was standing next to the pope at the time of the comments.

"You cannot make provocations," Francis added. "You cannot insult people's faith."

But the pope reiterated his previous comments about the attack on Charlie Hebdo, calling it an "aberration."

"Killing in the name of God is an aberration against God," he said. "I think this is the main thing with freedom of religion. You can practice with freedom but without imposing or killing."

You can watch an excerpt of the comments here.

Charlie Hebdo has a long history of lampooning religion, and its portrayals of Islam's Prophet Muhammad resulted in the attacks that killed some of its most famous cartoonists.

Some Muslims consider any depiction of their prophet — even positive ones — offensive.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.