Charlie Hebdo Offenses to Muslims Are 'Childish' Compared to Severe Mocking of Christians, Says Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said on Sunday that the cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are "childish" compared to the way the newspaper has mocked and offended Christians.
"The cartoons of prophet Muhammad are childish caricatures compared to what this publication allows itself in mocking the feelings of Christians," Kirill said in a sermon.
"Today, in saying 'no' to terrorism, killings, violence, we also say 'no' to the inexplicable drive by a certain group of people to deride religious feelings."
Kirill has become the latest Christian leader, after the Vatican's Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, to simultaneously condemn terrorism while also warning against efforts to offend religion.
The comments are in light of the terror attacks in Paris earlier in January, when al-Qaeda organized two gunmen to carry out a shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead. The attack was focused on the magazine for its numerous drawings of Muhammad, said to be offensive to many in the Muslim world.
The question of whether there should be limits to free speech has stirred a great deal of debate among various Christian voices.
"You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others," Pope Francis told journalists after the attack.
Tawadros II separately added, "I refuse any form of personal insult, and when the insult is related to religions, they cannot be approved neither at a human, nor at a moral and social level. They do not help the peace in the world, and do not produce any benefit."
Charlie Hebdo, which publishes satire targeting a wide range of political and religious figures, received the support of millions marching in France and participating in social media, who backed the magazine's freedom of speech.
While Patriarch Kirill did not describe the specific ways the newspaper has mocked Christians, Catholic League President Bill Donohue pointed out that it has published material such as "nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms."
"The cartoonists, and all those associated with Charlie Hebdo, are no champions of freedom. Quite the opposite: their obscene portrayal of religious figures — so shocking that not a single TV station or mainstream newspaper would show them — represents an abuse of freedom," Donohue added.
Several other Christian figures have disagreed that there should be any limits to free speech, however, and backed Charlie Hebdo's rights to publish its material, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"If someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don't have a right to wreak my vengeance upon them," Cameron said, responding to Francis' comments.
"We have to accept that newspapers, magazines can publish things that are offensive to some as long as it's within the law."
Former CNN host Piers Morgan also took objection as a Roman Catholic to the pope suggesting in a plain-speech manner that he would punch someone for insulting his mother, which the pontiff used as an example for why offending religion is wrong.
"Here was my Holy Father, supposedly a man who espouses the philosophy of turning the other cheek, telling us all to whack someone in the face if they insult us," Morgan wrote.
"Well, isn't that exactly what al-Qaeda did in Paris, metaphorically speaking?"