Friday

21st Jul 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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

Poland 'leaving EU community of values'

Leading MEPs and legal watchdogs have raised the alarm on Polish judicial reforms, but the European Commission declined to speak out so far.

Security and defence to top EU summit

Pressure is mounting for social media platforms to remove any online content deemed to incite terrorism. Draft conclusions, seen by EUobserver, have made the issue a top priority in leaders' talks next week.

Cyprus talks up in the air

A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary