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17 November 2021

Pope Francis: Journalists Are Precious And Their Search For Truth Sets Us Free

Pope Francis has paid tribute to journalists saying that society today is in “great need” of journalism to hold power to account and uncover truths which might otherwise remain hidden from public view.

In a speech honouring two veteran Vatican journalists reported by the i, Pope Francis thanked the journalistic community for helping to uncover sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and its wider role searching for the truth.

The head of the Catholic Church said journalism was a mission to “explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live in it less afraid of it and look at others with greater awareness, and also with more confidence.”

But journalism is “not an easy mission” and the risks included being “overwhelmed by the news instead of being able to make sense of it.” Three verbs characterise good journalism, he added: listen, investigate and report.

Pope Francis said: “To listen is a verb that concerns you as journalists, but it concerns us all as a church, at all times and especially now that the synodal process has begun. For a journalist, listening means having the patience to meet face-to-face with the people to be interviewed, the protagonists of the stories being told, the sources from which to receive news. Listening always goes hand-in-hand with seeing, with being present: certain nuances, sensations, and well-rounded descriptions can only be conveyed to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen for him – or herself.

“This means escaping – and I know how difficult this is in your work! – escaping from the tyranny of always being online, on social networks, on the web. The journalism of listening and seeing well requires time. Not everything can be told through email, the telephone, or a screen. As I recalled in this year’s message for Communications Day, we need journalists who are willing to “wear out the soles of their shoes”, to get out of the newsroom, to walk around the city, to meet people, to assess the situations in which we live in our time. Listening is the first word that came to my mind.

“The second, to investigate, is a consequence of listening and seeing. Every piece of news, every fact we talk about, every reality we describe needs to be investigated. At a time when millions of pieces of information are available on the web, and when many people obtain their information and form their opinions on social media, where unfortunately the logic of simplification and opposition sometimes prevails, the most important contribution that good journalism can make is that of in-depth analysis.

In contrast with information on the internet, journalists can offer context, precedent, and interpretation that help to explain the fact that has happened, the Pope said.

He added: “To listen, to investigate, and the third verb, to report: I don’t have to explain it to you, who have become journalists precisely because you are curious about reality and passionate about telling it. Reporting means not putting oneself in the foreground, nor setting oneself up as a judge, but allowing oneself to be struck and sometimes wounded by the stories we encounter, in order to be able to tell them with humility to our readers.

“Reality is a great antidote to many “ailments”. Reality – what happens, the lives and testimonies of people – deserves to be told. I think of the books you write, Valentina, on women who suffer the tyranny of abuse. Today we are in great need of journalists and communicators who are passionate about reality, capable of finding the treasures often hidden in the folds of our society and recounting them, allowing us to be impressed, to learn, to broaden our minds, to grasp aspects that we did not know before. I am grateful to you for your effort to recount reality.

“The diversity of approaches, of style, of points of view linked to different cultures or religious affiliations, is also a wealth of information. I also thank you for what you tell us about what goes wrong in the church, for helping us not to sweep it under the carpet, and for the voice you have given to the victims of abuse: thank you for this.”

“Thank you all for the work you do. Thank you for your search for the truth, because only the truth sets us free.”

  • Picture courtesy of PA Media.