Known for his straight talking, it was a typically friendly but forthright Pope Francis who spoke to journalists as he flew back to Rome from Manila at the end of his Asia tour.
Amid the row over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, he defended freedom of expression but added:
“I cannot insult and provoke a person continually because I risk making them angry and I risk getting a reaction that is not correct.”
On his flight to the Philippines, the Pope had caused surprise in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France. He said it was wrong to provoke others by insulting their religion and joked that anyone cursing his mother could expect ‘a punch’.
More eyebrows were raised during his latest news conference as Francis addressed family matters – taking an unusual stance in unusual language for a pontiff.
“Some think, excuse me if I use the word, that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits – but no,” he said, adding the Church promoted “responsible parenthood”.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church restated its ban on artificial birth control, adding there were “many ways that are allowed” to practise natural family planning.
Birth control and population issues arose in the Pope’s trip to the Philippines, where the local Church opposes a government law making contraceptives easily available.