Declaration of the Holy See Press Office
Vatican Press Office
Free to Offend?

In order to respond to various requests for clarification of the Holy See's position regarding recent offensive representations of the religious sentiments of individuals or of entire communities, the Holy See Press Office declares:

1. The right to freedom of thought and of expression, sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers. This principle obviously applies in reference to any religion whatsoever.

2. Moreover, human coexistence demands an atmosphere of mutual respect in order to foster peace among peoples and nations. In addition, certain forms of exasperated criticism or the derision of others denote a lack of human sensitivity and in some cases can constitute an inadmissible provocation. The interpretation of history teaches that this is not the way to heal the wounds that exist in the lives of peoples.

3. However, it should be said straightaway that the public institutions of the country concerned, whose Authorities will and must eventually intervene in accordance with the principles permitted by the national legislation, cannot be blamed for offences caused by an individual person or by the press. Violent actions of protest are, therefore, likewise to be deplored. Indeed, in reaction to any offence the true spirit of every religion cannot be lacking. Moreover, physical or verbal intolerance as an action or reaction, regardless of its origin, is always a serious threat to peace.

From the Vatican, 4 February 2006.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 February 2006, page 8

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