Vatican condemns cartoons of Prophet Mohammad

The Vatican on Saturday condemned the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad which have outraged the Muslim world, saying freedom of speech does not mean freedom to offend a person's religion.

Reuters reports that the statement asserted that the freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, "can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion".

"Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation," it said in a statement issued in response to media demands for the Church's opinion.

The Holy See equally said it deplores violent reactions to the cartoons.

"Real or verbal intolerance, from wherever it comes, whether as an action or a reaction, is always a serious threat to peace."

The cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper and reprinted by several other European papers after sometimes violent protests by Muslims around the world, have sparked a global debate on the limits of free speech.

Meanwhile Italian Cardinal Achille Silvestrini (pictured), a leader for many years in the Vatican's diplomatic service, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that the cartoons demonstrate a growing trend to make fun of religious symbols in general.

"Freedom of satire that offends the sentiments of others becomes an abuse - and in this case it has affected the sentiments of entire populations in their highest symbols," he said. "One can understand satire about a priest but not about God. With reference to Islam, we could understand satire on the uses and customs and behavior, but not about the Quran, Allah and the Prophet.".

Vatican condemns cartoons of Prophet Mohammad (Reuters 3/2/06)
Cardinal criticizes cartoons satirizing prophet Mohammed (Catholic News Service 3/2/06)

Cardinal criticizes cartoons satirizing prophet Mohammed (Catholic News Service 3/2/06)
Caricatures of Mohammed are a "scandal," prelate says (Catholic World News 3/2/06)
Cartoons tasteless, but press should be free, Catholic scholar says (Catholic World News 3/2/06)
Church leaders remind media of their power as Islamic protests surge (Ecumenical News International 3/2/06)
Schoolchildren cast judgements on Muslims (Sydney Morning Herald 6/2/06)

6 Feb 2006