A year from the terror attack at its Paris office, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has once again courted controversy with its anniversary edition cover as one million copies of the special edition hit stands on Wednesday. Religious leaders in France and the Vatican criticised the magazine for the cover cartoon depicting "God" armed with a Kalashnikov.
The cover of the anniversary edition portrays a bearded man with a Kalashnikov rifle on his shoulder, with text that reads — "One year on: The assassin is still out there."
Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said on Tuesday all religious leaders, including Pope Francis, have repeatedly condemned terror attacks in the name of religion.
"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," the Vatican newspaper said, according to AFP.
"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," the Osservatore Romano daily said.
Christian and Muslim religious leaders in France lambasted the French satirical for provoking sentiments at a sensitive time.
"What we need are signs of conciliation and harmony. And this cartoon isn't helping at a time when we need to be standing side by side. It's putting people of all faiths together," Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, told the Le Parisien newspaper, according to The Local.
"The front page of the Charlie Hebdo anniversary, and what is it referring to? Religions? It's becoming an obsession. This tragedy deserved better, (sic)" Christine Boutin, head of the Christian Democrat Party, said on Twitter.
France will mark one year since brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi walked into the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris on 7 January, 2015, and gunned down 12 people, including the editor of the French satirical magazine, Stephane Charbonnier.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had placed the Charlie Hebdo editor on its hitlist for using cartoons deemed insulting to Islam, claimed responsibility for the attack.