French bishops refuse to sign Charlie Hebdo declaration

France’s Catholic Church has refused to sign a media declaration that challenges faith groups to give unreserved support for free speech.

The declaration, proposed by the group Reporters without Borders (RSF), came after French religious leaders last week backed free speech, but stated it had to be exercised responsibly.

The issue comes in the wake of last month’s terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and similar incidents which resulted in 17 fatalities.

The RSF declaration challenges faith groups to pledge unreserved support for free speech or face public pressure to do so, the Tablet reported.

“Nobody can impose his concept of the sacred on others,” stated the declaration.

It admitted some people might be offended by free speech, but this cannot justify limiting any opinion, even an irreverent one.

The RSF initiative was supported by a committee of intellectuals who back France’s laïcité policy of church-state separation.

President of the French bishops’ conference Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille said the Church does not sign declarations it has not helped draft.

“This declaration seems to suspect religions of being not very active in supporting free speech, if not actually opposed to it,” Archbishop Pontier said.

The archbishop said it was regrettable the text was addressed only to religious leaders and not other civil society personalities.

In January, the French bishops sent two of their number to the massive protest in Paris a few days after the shootings.

On the day of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the bishops issued a statement expressing their sorrow.

But in the first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the killings, its editorial said the magazine laughed that the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris had rung in their honour.

“We would like to send a message to Pope Francis, who, too, was ‘Charlie’ this week: we only accept the bells of Notre Dame ringing in our honour when it is Femen who make them tinkle,” the editorial stated.

Femen is a radical feminist group which had staged a topless protest in Notre Dame Cathedral.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,