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Charlie Hebdo anniversary cartoon does not amuse

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, criticised the cover page cartoon of a special commemorative edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on the first anniversary of the deadly attacks on the publication’s offices on Paris.

The illustration featured a cartoon of an angry God running, with blood spattered on him and a machine gun slung over his back. The headline read: “One year on: the assassin is still out there.”

L’Ossevatore Romano said in its January 6 article titled, The Charlie Hebdo question: Manipulated faith, that the satirical dig was nothing new “because behind the misleading banner of uncompromising secularism, the French weekly is forgetting once again what religious leaders of every faith have been repeating for a long time in rejecting violence in the name of religion—that using God to justify hatred is true blasphemy, as Pope Francis has reiterated several times.”

The article suggested that the cover illustration showed “the sad paradox of a world that is ever more careful about being ‘politically correct’ almost to the point of being ridiculous ... but that does not want to recognise and respect every believer’s faith in God,” regardless of what religion it be.

The Vatican newspaper article quoted Anouar Kbibech, president of the French council of the Muslim faith, as saying the drawing “harms all believers of different religions. It is a caricature that is unhelpful at a time when we need to come together side by side.” 

It also noted that the French Conference of Catholic Bishops questioned whether this “sort of controversy was the kind of thing France needed.” 

Gerard Biard, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, told the BBC’s Radio 4 on January 7, that shocking cartoons should be viewed as “part of an adult democratic debate.”

He believed western societies had not “done enough to defend secularism” and that the magazine’s aim was “not to attack religion but religion as a political idea.”

“That the Church doesn’t like our issue is a comfort to us,” Baird said. Claiming that the Church is a political power, he added, “We aim at political powers.” 

The deadly 7 January 2015 attack, carried out by two brothers with reported ties to a branch of al-Qaeda, resulted in 17 deaths and was said to have been in retaliation for the publication of cartoons mocking Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. 

The killings sparked much debate about the role of satire and just how far freedom of speech should go.

Pope Francis during an inflight interview with reporters on 19 January 2015 following his visit to The Philippines said, “In theory, we all agree: There is freedom of expression, a violent aggression is not good, it is always bad. We all agree, but in practice, let us stop a little because we are human and we risk provoking others. For this reason freedom must be accompanied by prudence.”

He said, “I cannot constantly insult, provoke a person continuously, because I risk making him angry and I risk receiving an unjust reaction… For this reason I say that freedom of expression must take into account the human reality and for this reason it must be prudent. It’s a way of saying that one must be well-behaved, prudent. Prudence is the human virtue that regulates our relationships.”


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