'Let’s not accuse Muslims. Let’s accuse also ourselves,' Pontiff tells French reporter
Pope Francis decried the regression of freedom of conscience in “Christian countries” during an in-flight press conference Sunday, telling reporters on his return trip from Morocco, “let’s not accuse Muslims”.
When asked by a French reporter about a criminal law in Morocco that prohibits enticing a Muslim to convert to another religion, Francis responded, “Let’s not accuse Muslims. Let’s accuse also ourselves.”
“Today, we Christians have the danger that some governments will take away our freedom of conscience, which is the first step toward freedom of worship,” Pope Francis said March 31.
“Think of the Christian doctors and hospital institutions that do not have the right of conscientious objection, for example, for euthanasia. How? The Church has moved on and you Christian countries go backwards?” he told the French reporter.
The pope explained that religious freedom has developed over time in Muslim world and in the history of the Catholic Church.
“Freedom always develops, it grows. Think of us Christians 300 years ago, if there was this freedom that we have today. Faith grows in awareness, in the ability to understand itself,” Francis said.
“For example, today we have removed the death penalty from the Catechesim of the Catholic Church. Three hundred years ago, heretics were burned alive,” he said.
“The Church has grown in moral conscience, respect for the person, and the freedom of worship,” Francis explained. “We too must continue to grow.”
“There are people, Catholics, who do not accept what the Second Vatican Council said about freedom of worship, freedom of conscience,” Pope Francis said. “We have this problem.”
Francis said that Muslims are progressing in the freedom of conscience and freedom of worship, however some countries “do not understand well or do not grow as well as others.”
“In Morocco, there is this growth,” he emphasized. “I can say that in Morocco there is freedom of worship, there is religious freedom.”
During his two-day trip to Morocco, Pope Francis signed the “Jerusalem declaration” with the King of Morocco Mohammed VI on March 30. The joint statement called for Jerusalem to remain “multi-religious” and a “city of peace.”
Pope Francis also spoke about religious freedom and freedom of conscience in his address to the Moroccan people in their capital, Rabat.
“Freedom of conscience and religious freedom – which is not limited to freedom of worship alone, but allows all to live in accordance with their religious convictions – are inseparably linked to human dignity,” Pope Francis said.
According to the U.S. State Department, Morocco is more than 99 percent Sunni Muslim. Islam is the religion of the state, and their criminal code prohibits undermining Islam or proselytizing.