Exactly one year after the notorious Paris jihadist attacks on the offices of the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, the journal has released an anniversary issue depicting a cover drawing of God toting an AK-47 on his back with the headline “Murderer.”
“One year on,” the full caption reads, “the murderer is still out there.”
The Vatican has responded with an article in its semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, in which it takes Charlie Hebdo to task for blaming God for the attacks.
“Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism,” it reads, “the weekly forgets once again what religious leaders of every faith have been urging for some time: to reject violence in the name of religion. Using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy.”
The cover drawing, the commentary says, “is an image that wounds all believers of different religions. It is a caricature that isn’t helpful, at a moment when we need to be pulling together.”
In its rebuke, the Vatican paper said that the Charlie Hebdo cover represents “the sad paradox of a world that is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of the ridiculous, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God.”
The magazine is reportedly printing one million copies of the 32-page special double issue, with tens of thousands expected to be sent overseas. It features a selection of drawings by the cartoonists who died in the attack, as well as by current staff and messages of support.
Cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who drew the front cover, also wrote an angry editorial in defense of secularism. He denounces “fanatics brutalized by the Koran” as well people from other religions who had hoped the attacks would bring about the demise of the publication.
Last January, a week after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Pope Francis condemned the assault carried out in the name of religion. Killing in the name of God, he told reporters, is “an aberration.”
Just last week the French bishops denounced attempts to stifle all religion in the name of secularism, a temptation that the bishops called “an illusion and a mistake.”
In their statement the bishops warned against a “current of thought in our country that would move from a secular state to the secularization of society. Some would like the whole of life in society to be secular and for believing citizens to neither express nor live their faith except in a strictly private space that is increasingly reduced or even hidden.”
“We must be vigilant in the exercise of state secularism and its respect for the different beliefs of citizens,” the statement said. “We must avoid the stigmatization of believers, leading to a reduced ability to live and express themselves as citizens,” the bishops declared.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome