Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light network, serves as the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.
Regarding the Pope’s words on the flight today from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, about freedom of speech and the attacks in Paris, Fr. Rosica released the following clarification:
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There have been numerous questions and messages this morning regarding the Vatican Radio report published earlier today summarizing Pope Francis’ remarks during the airborne press conference from Sri Lanka to Manila.
Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The Pope replied that both are “fundamental human rights” and stressed that killing in the name of God “is an aberration.” But he said there were limits to that freedom of expression. By way of example he referred to his close colleague and organizer of Papal trips, Dr. Alberto Gasparri, who was standing next to the Holy Father on the plane. The Pope said if “his good friend Dr Gasparri” says a curse word against his mother, he can “expect a punch”, and at that point he gestured with a pretend punch towards him, saying: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
The Pope’s expression is in no way intended to be interpreted as a justification for the violence and terror that took place in Paris last week. The Pope’s words about Dr. Gasbarri were spoken colloquially and in a friendly, intimate matter among colleagues and friends on the journey. His words mean that there are limits to humor and satire particularly in the ways that we speak about matters of faith and belief. Pope Francis’ response might be similar to something each of us has felt when those dearest to us are insulted or harmed. The Pope’s free style of speech, especially in situations like the press conference must be taken a face value and not distorted or manipulated. The Pope has spoken out clearly against the terror and violence that occurred in Paris and in other parts of the world. Violence begets violence. Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight.