Vatican City (AsiaNews) - As much as "killing in the name of God" is "an aberration," those who offend a religion in the name of the right of saying whatever they want are wrong, said Pope Francis with regards to the events of Paris during his exchange with journalists on the plane that took him from Sri Lanka in the Philippines.
Vatican Radio reported that in response to a question from a French journalist about the tragic events in Paris, the pope said that "both religious freedom and the freedom of expression are fundamental human rights." However, if "killing in the name of God is not right, [if] it is an aberration," it is also wrong to offend a religion in name of the right to do whatever one wants.
On this point, Pope Francis was unequivocal. For him, it is certainly necessary to speak about what contributes to building the "common good", and it is certainly true that one cannot react violently to an insult, but "provoking" is not acceptable. "Provoking and insulting other people's faiths is not right," he insisted. "There is a limit; every religion has its dignity."
Asked about possible attacks against him and the Vatican, Francis said he feared above all for the safety of people who come to meet him. Speaking about himself, he said with a smile that he faces dangers with "a good dose of unawareness". The "best way" to react to violence, he stressed, is "moderation".
The pope however used strong words against the growing use of teenagers and children in suicide bombings, a practice well known during Sri Lanka's own bloody civil war. For the Holy Father, notwithstanding any psychological problems, there is an element of "human imbalance" in those who choose to kill themselves in order to kill others.
Suicide bombers, he noted, "give their life but they do not give it in a good way." Conversely, "missionaries for example [. . .] give their life, but in order to build something". Strapping a bomb on a child is nothing more than a terrible way of making the latter a "slave," the pope said.
Asked about the possibility of involving other religions against terrorism, perhaps with an Assisi style meeting, the pope said he knew that "some are working on this" in other religions, where some "uneasiness" exists on the resurgence of terrorism.
The pope also answered questions about an encyclical on environmental issues currently being drafted, noting that it should be ready for June or July.
In late March, he said, he will take a week off to finish the document. The latter has already gone through three drafts: a first one prepared by Card Turkson, a second one vetted by the pope himself with the help of experts and a third version prepared with the contribution of theologians.
The last draft received constructive contributions from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican Secretariat of State and the theologian of the Papal Household.
The pope wants an encyclical that can provided "a contribution" to the next meeting in Paris on the environment. The last one in Peru, he said, "disappointed me" for its "lack of courage."
As to his trip to the Philippines, "The crux of the message will be the poor ", he said, especially for those went through typhoon Yolanda.
Speaking about his Sri Lanka visit, Francis first explained why he recently chose to proclaim new saints according to the principle of "equivalent canonization" in the case of men and women venerated for centuries, like Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka,.
In his choices, like the Blessed Angela da Foligno, Pierre Favre, Father de Anchieta and others, the Pope expressed a preference, as evinced by the vision in Evangelii Gaudium, for canonising great men and women "evangelisers".
This will occur in September, during his apostolic visit to the United States, when he will canonise Junipero Serra, who brought the Gospel to the American West.
Pope Francis also talked about his surprise visit to a Buddhist temple, at the end of the second day in Sri Lanka. He said it was courtesy call to the head of the temple who had come to greet him at the airport, but also a recognition of the value of interreligiosity, which is alive and well in places like the Marian shrine in Madhu, where Catholics and non-Catholics meet and pray.
During the tête-à-tête with reporters, the pope also expressed his support for truth and reconciliation commissions around the world, like the one in Sri Lanka. In fact, Francis said that he had supported the one held in Argentina and supported all "balanced efforts" that "help facilitate mutual agreement," in lieu of revenge.
Quoting from Sri Lanka's new president, Pope Francis said he was impressed by the president's idea of moving peace and reconciliation forward in order, above all, " to create harmony in the people", which is "something more than peace, more than reconciliation". But to do this, "we have to reach the heart of the people."