“Believers, like all citizens, can be hurt by insults, taunts and also offensive caricatures”, declare the bishops of France, meeting Saturday November 7 in plenary assembly. They collectively signed an “interpellation”, a new form of intervention in the public debate: “Freedom must be defended, without weakness. Does this mean that freedom of expression should know no restraint vis-à-vis others and ignore the need for debate and dialogue? “
Speaking just a few hours after the ceremony of tribute to the victims of terrorism in Nice, and with in memory the attack of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Yvelines) against the history professor Samuel Paty, the bishops express their concern and launch an appeal to fraternity: “More than additional laws, we invite everyone, in conscience, to respect (…) Freedom grows when it goes hand in hand with fraternity. “ Addressing everyone and especially the public authorities, the bishops underline the urgency of mobilization: “It is time to reflect on the way in which our collective institutions and our individual behaviors should promote respect and deploy fraternity. “
On Sunday, during his closing speech of the Plenary Assembly, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort returned to the subject: “Blasphemy consists above all in causing the name of God to be cursed. Is therefore guilty of blasphemy who uses the name of God to justify his violence or his injustices ”, denouncing “Those who produce and disseminate an ideology which makes murder seem a holy act”.
Quite different is, in the eyes of the President of the Conference of Bishops of France, “Derision, mockery (…) : it is a pledge of maturity not to be let down ”. However, insists the Archbishop of Reims, “It is the role of the family and the school to teach young people to accept that some are different from others and to encounter these differences not through violence or humiliation but through reflection, the confrontation of ideas ”.
The issue of caricatures is nonetheless very sensitive. The Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmed Al Tayeb, co-signatory with Pope Francis in February 2019, of the joint declaration on the “Human fraternity for world peace and common coexistence”, declared a few days ago: “Insulting religions and abusing sacred symbols under the pretext of freedom of expression is a form of intellectual ambiguity and a call to hatred. “ Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, was to meet him this Sunday, November 8 on the occasion of his visit to Cairo for a “Appeasement work” vis-à-vis the Arab world on the subject of the Prophet’s caricatures.