The Vatican’s semi-official newspaper Osservatore Romano has condemned French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo for portraying God as an assassin in a special edition cover to mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on its offices.
The special issue marks one year since jihadists gunned down 12 people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices over drawings that lampooned the Prophet Mohammed.
The cover was drawn by editor Laurent ‘Riss’ Sourisseau and features a bearded God smeared in blood carrying an assault rifle. Accompanying text reads: “One year on: The assassin is still out there.”
The Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano said in response to the issue: “This episode is nothing new because behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat to reject violence in the name of religion — using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as Pope Francis has said several times.”
“In Charlie Hebdo’s choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion,” it added.
Theologian and secretary general of the Synod of Bishops Mgr. Bruno Forte, described the cover as “distressing, as well as unfounded” and that it “offends the sensitivity of all people, not only Christians, Jews or Muslims” in an interview with news agency AdnKronos. He added: “The potential for violence can, if anything, become detached from an authentic religious experience, certainly not encouraged or incited by it. As Pope Francis has said, killing in the name of God is to act against God’s will.”
Forte continued that the sentiments expressed on the cover are "far from the truth" because all religions "preach non violence in the name of God", including the Muslim faith. Forte added: "If anything, one shows violence by adopting an ideological stance, claiming to possess the truth, judging and excluding others."
Pope Francis spoke out a week after the Charlie Hebdo attack, condemning the acts of terror in the name of God as "an aberration", but warned at the same time of mocking Islam after the attack: "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith."
The special edition will include a collection of cartoons by the five Charlie Hebdo artists killed in the attack.
As well as drawing the controversial cover, the Guardian reports Sourisseau has also written an editorial in support of secularism in the special edition in which he has denounced “fanatics brutalized by the Koran”.
One million copies of the anniversary issue are set to be released to French newsstands today (6th January), with thousands more being sold abroad. A survivor’s issue of the magazine released a week after the attack sold a record 7.5 million copies, significantly increasing the magazine’s circulation.