The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has joined the debate over freedom of expression in the wake of the unspeakable killing of 12 cartoonists, editors, and a police officer at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris recently.
Speaking to journalists aboard an aircraft on his way to the Philippines from Sri Lanka, Pope Francis said freedom of expression has its limits, especially when the "fundamental human right" is used to ridicule and insult the religion of others.
"(If someone) says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others," the Pope said.
Pope Francis also described those who speak badly and make fun of the religions of other people as provocateurs.
At the same time, the Pope condemned the violent retaliation due to such offense, saying, "One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one's own religion — that is, in the name of God... To kill in the name of God is an aberration."
His remarks came a week after Islamic extremists stormed into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, whose editors and cartoonists drew images of Prophet Mohammed on its front cover. The magazine also poked fun on other religions, including Christianity.
The Vatican Press Office later issued a statement saying the Pope's remarks were "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 free style of speech, especially in situations like the press conference must be taken at 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," the statement continued.
"Violence begets violence. Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight," the Vatican Press Office clarified.
Days earlier, Pope Francis denounced the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the "deviant forms of religion" he said were behind them.
He said religious fundamentalism already eliminates God himself even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, turning Him into a mere ideological pretext.