|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
From the Vatican, 4 February 2006.