Tuesday

24th Oct 2017

Brussels defends Pope's freedom of expression

  • The pope's quotes should not be taken out of context, says Brussels (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission has said it was wrong to pick out quotes from the pope's controversial speech in which a link between Islam and violence was suggested and deliberately taking them out of context.

Speaking to journalists on Monday (18 September), commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said that the commission would not "clarify or interpret" the speech which has sparked furore across Muslim world, as Brussels considers it "a theological contribution to a theological debate."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But he added that "in the commission's view, any reaction must be based on what was actually said and not on quotes being taken out of context. And even less on quotes being deliberately taken out of context."

"And generally speaking, I can also say that reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable and let me conclude with this: freedom of speech is a cornerstone of the EU's order as is the freedom and respect of all religions and beliefs, be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or laicism," he continued.

The commission's statement comes a day after the head of the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI, himself argued that the excerpts from his speech were misinterpreted.

"These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought," he explained.

He referred to a quote in his speech by a 14th century Byzantine emperor who claimed the prophet Muhammed's teaching had brought along "evil and inhuman" ideas, "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Different notions of God and holy war

The pontiff's speech - delivered last week to scientists at the University of Regensburg where he was a professor and vice rector from 1969 to 1971 – examined the impact of Greek philosophy on Christian theology, particularly on the concept of reason and its place in religion.

In the paragraph with the controversial quote, the pope pointed to a dialogue in around 1391 between the emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian about Christianity and Islam.

In the text, the emperor argues that spreading the faith through violence, holy war or jihad - as suggested by the prophet Mohammed - is something unreasonable, while "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature."

Benedict XVI pointed out that while this notion was "self-evident" for the emperor - shaped by Greek philosophy, it was not so for some Muslim thinkers of the past.

He argues that due to this "rapprochement" between Christianity and Greek philosophy and its concept of reason, "it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe."

"We can also express this the other way around: This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe," added the pontiff.

Pope's apology fails to calm Muslim protests

Pope Benedict XVI has said he is sorry for the reactions by Muslims to a speech last week at a German university suggesting there was a link between Islam and violence - but the wording of his apology has failed to appease some protesters.

Investigation

The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals

Klaus Mangold, a German businessman with good connections in Russia, and who provided a jet for Commission vice-president Guenther Oettinger, played a crucial role in Hungary's controversial Paks nuclear deal with Russia, Direkt36's investigation has found.

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level talks to take forward European reform, but his backing for a multi-speed Europe risks deepening divide.

Catalan MPs weigh independence declaration

A crucial week is ahead in Catalonia as its leaders decide whether to declare independence - an illegal move according to the Spanish government – or yield to pressure from Madrid.

Italian regions demand autonomy from Rome

The Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy are seeking greater self-determination from the central government following referendum results on Sunday.

News in Brief

  1. Tusk: It's up to London to have a good Brexit deal
  2. Bettel wants more ministerial meetings on digital
  3. Austria's Kurz to open coalition talks with far-right
  4. Estonia: Finalising digital market before 2019 'do-able'
  5. Don't let City of London 'drift away', Luxembourg warns
  6. Far-right enters German parliament officially
  7. Orban declares migrant-free zone in Eastern Europe
  8. Madrid set to use force to stop Catalonia independence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. A Soul for EuropeWho Assumes Responsibility for Europe?' Conference on 10-11 November in Berlin.
  2. Martens CentreI Say Europe, You Say...? Interview With EU Commission VP Jyrki Katainen
  3. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  5. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  6. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  7. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  8. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  10. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  11. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  12. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!