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There are limits to freedom of expression: Pope

By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 January, 2015

BRAZIL-POPE-WYD-DEPARTUREPope Francis has warned that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

Speaking during a press conference on-board his flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the Pope was asked by a French journalist about the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

The Pope replied saying that both are “fundamental human rights” and that killing in the name of God “is an aberration”.

But he also said that responsible people should recognise the boundaries of civility.

“So many people bad-mouth, make fun of, and mock other people’s faiths,” the Pope said. “There is a limit.”

He compared mockery of religion to insulting someone’s mother, and observed that if someone insulted his mother, “he’s asking for a punch.”

“You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others,” the Pope said. Citing the Regensburg address of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he said that a tendency to belittle religious faiths is “a legacy of the Enlightenment.”

Elsewhere in his in-flight exchange with journalists, the Pope said that human beings are largely responsible for climate change.

He warned that it is “man who has slapped nature in the face.”

Humans, he suggested, have “exploited nature too much” and he referred to his forthcoming encyclical on ecology, saying he hopes the document will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous decisions” to protect God’s creation.

He told reporters that “an old peasant once told me: God always forgives, we men forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives. If you give her a slap, she will give you one.”

Referring to the crisis over deforestation, he recalled that at Aparecida he did not understand the problem well and when he heard the Brazilian bishops speak of the deforestation of the Amazonia.

“I ended up understanding well. Amazonia is the lungs of the world.”

Five years ago, together with a commission for human rights, he had made an appeal to the Supreme Court of Argentina to stop, at least temporarily, a terrible deforestation in a zone of Argentina, Tartagal, north of Salta.

Pope Francis also indicated where one of his influences for the encyclical was. Stating that he believed “man has gone too far”, the Pontiff added, “Thanks be to God that there are voices that speak about this. At this moment I would like to recall my beloved brother Bartholomew, (Patriarch of Constantinople), who for years, for years, has preached about this. I read many things of his to prepare for this encyclical.”

During the press conference, the Pope also spoke about his priorities for his pastoral visit to the Philippines, saying the focus of his message will be the plight of the poor, those who suffered during the 2013 typhoon and those who “face so many injustices, social, spiritual, existential.”

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