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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Saturday condemned the publication of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad which have outraged the Muslim world, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person's religion.
"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion," the Vatican said.
"Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation," it said in a statement issued in response to media demands for the Church's opinion.
The seat of the Roman Catholic Church said it deplored violent reactions to the cartoons. "Real or verbal intolerance, from wherever it comes, whether as an action or a reaction, is always a serious threat to peace."
The cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper and reprinted by several other European papers after sometimes violent protests by Muslims around the world, have sparked a global debate on the limits of free speech.
The Vatican said the institutions of a country should not be held responsible for the actions of a newspaper, but said governments "could and should intervene according to (their) national legislation".
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