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Pope addresses limits of free speech, climate change, in new interview

January 15, 2015

Pope Francis said that freedom of speech should not be exploited to mock religious faiths, and that human beings are largely responsible for climate change, during an in-flight exchange with reporters as he traveled from Sri Lanka to the Philippines on January 15.

The Pope responded at length to a question about the killing of Charlie Hebdo staff members. He stressed that “killing in the name of God is not right; it is an aberration.” But he also said that responsible people should recognize 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 Benedict XVI, he said that a tendency to belittle religious faiths is “a legacy of the Enlightenment.”

Questioned about climate change, the Pope answered: "I don’t know if humans who mistreat nature are fully responsible for climate change but they are largely responsible for it."

“We have exploited nature too much,” the Pontiff said. He spoke of deforestation, a one-crop system that depletes soil, and other offenses against the environment.

The Pope reported that his next encyclical, which will address environmental issues, is now in its 3rd draft. He said that he has sent the draft to be read by other Vatican officials “so that they can make sure I am not talking nonsense.” He plans to make final changes in March, he said, and the encyclical will be released in June or July.

Pope Francis said that he hopes the encyclical will be made public in time to have some impact on the next worldwide conference on climate change, which will be held in Paris. He said that he was disappointed with the meager results of the last such meeting, held last year in Peru.

On other topics, the Pope said:

• He was pleased with a decision to stray from his fixed schedule and visit a Buddhist temple during his stay in Sri Lanka. He remarked that the Catholic Church “has grown a great deal” since Vatican II in recognizing the virtues of other faiths.

• He speaks to Vatican security officials about possible threats, but acknowledges that their task is complicated because “I am quite reckless.” He joked that “I have simply asked the Lord for the grace of not letting me come to harm because I am not courageous in the face of pain, I am very fearful.”


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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: FredC - Jan. 16, 2015 10:29 AM ET USA

    If the pope states that global warming is significantly caused by man, I hope he can show the data that supports his statement and can refute the data that show that global warming is not significantly caused by man. We need the light of truth on this matter.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Jan. 15, 2015 6:03 PM ET USA

    I hope the "Vatican officials" who are reviewing the third draft of the pope's global warming encyclical remind him that the charism of infallibility does not extend to assessing human responsibility for climate change. The more precise his policy prescriptions, it seems to me, the farther he moves from speaking authoritatively.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jan. 15, 2015 5:22 PM ET USA

    The allegation of man-caused climate change is at the heart of a scientific dispute. The Pope may or may not be right on this. Time will tell. However I cannot see where this papal affirmation of man-caused global warming can be binding on the faithful given the status of the question among scientists.