Pope Francis: 'Freedom of Expression Is a Right and a Duty, But It Has Its Limits'

Extremism, Climate Change and New Canonizations Among Issues Discussed Aboard Papal Flight

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While defending freedom of expression as a fundamental right and a duty, Pope Francis said that it also has its limits and should not be used to mock or insult. The Holy Father made these comments during an in-depth press conference aboard his flight from Colombo to Manila today.

According to Italian newspaper La Stampa, the Pope was asked regarding the issues of religious freedom and freedom of expression, two issues that have been in the headlines after last week’s terrorist attack in Paris.

Commenting on the events in France, the Holy Father denounced the attack, of which Al-Qaeda in Yemen has taken responsibility. «Killing in the name of God is not right, it is an aberration,» he exclaimed.

«Regarding freedom of expression: not only does each person have the freedom and the right to say what they think for the common good, they have a duty to do so.»

However, the Pope continued, people must not misuse it to cause offense. «Provoking and insulting other people’s faiths is not right,» he said.

Suicide attacks: A human imbalance

The method of suicide attacks and using children to murder and destroy was also an issue discussed with the Holy Father. Recently in Nigeria, young girls committed a suicide attack in a crowded area. Young children were also used by the Islamic State to carry out executions, as evidenced by a video that was released.

The Pope said that he was inclined to say that «behind every suicide attack there is an element of human imbalance.»

«There is something that is not quite right with that person, that person has an imbalance in their life. They give their life but they do not give it in a good way. There are so many people who work, like the missionaries for example: they give their life, but in order to build something. Suicide killers, on the other hand, give their life in order to destroy.»

Church and ecology

«Mankind has gone overboard,» the Pope said when asked about climate change. “I don’t know if humans who mistreat nature are fully responsible for climate change but they are largely responsible for it,» he said. «We have exploited nature too much.»

The Holy Father recalled the effects of deforestation and the practice of a «one-crop system,» which he said was causing the depletion of soil. However, he also expressed relief that others, in particular religious leaders, are speaking about it.

The 78-year-old Pontiff said that he has read documents written by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on the subject in preparing his own encyclical on the matter. Regarding the release of that document, the Pope said that it should be ready between June or July of this year.

«Cardinal Turkson and his team have presented the first draft of the new encyclical. I then worked on this and now I have prepared the third draft which I have sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Secretariat of State and the theologian of the Papal Household so that they can make sure I am not talking nonsense,» he said.  

The Pope also expressed his hope for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

«I was disappointed by the last conference held in Peru. Let’s hope they are a bit more courageous in Paris,» he said.

Sri Lanka and new canonizations

Regarding his visit to Sri Lanka and the country’s efforts toward peace and national unity, the Holy Father recalled a conversation with President Sirisena, in which the newly elected head of state emphasized the need not only for peace and reconciliation, but harmony among the people.

Regarding the Sri Lankan committees currently investigating injustices faced by the people during the civil war, the Pope stressed that they are starting to buildnational unity.

«The investigative committees on the truth are one of the elements that may help, but there are other elements to arrive at peace, reconciliation, harmony, and the heart of the people. I have borrowed the words of the President of Sri Lanka,» he said.

Commenting on the canonization of Sri Lanka’s first saint, St. Joseph Vaz, Pope Francis said that canonizations are reserved not only for those who have a miracle attributed to their intercession, but also those who are «great evangelizers.» After naming several evangelizers from Europe, Canada, and Brazil, the Pope revealed that he will canonize Blessed Junípero Serra in September during his apostolic visit to the United States.

Blessed Serra, a 16th-century Spanish Franciscan who founded the first Catholic missions in Baja California, was beatified by St. John Paul II on Sept. 25, 1998.

Regarding evangelizers, like St. Joseph Vaz and Blessed Junípero Serra, Pope Francis concluded saying: «They are figures who have done a strong evangelization and are in line with Evangelii Gaudium.»

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On the Web:

For a working English translation of the press conference, go to: 

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/francesco-filippine-38560/

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Junno Arocho Esteves

Newark, New Jersey, USA Bachelor of Science degree in Diplomacy and International Relations.

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