VATICAN CITY — In an address September 22 to the National Council Order of Journalists in Rome, Pope Francis encouraged journalists to live with professionalism, love the truth, and respect human dignity.
After greetings from the president, Enzo Iacopino, the Pontiff spoke to those present in the Clementine Hall.
“There are few professions that have as much influence on society as that of journalism,” Pope Francis said. “The journalist has a role of great importance, and at the same time a great responsibility. In a certain sense you write the ‘first draft of history, determine the news agenda, and introduce people to an interpretation of events…. And this is so important.”
Pope Francis urged journalists to consider carefully all dimensions of a story and to approach without bias or concern for anything but the ethical ideal of producing accurate, timely information, resulting in a free, democratic society.
“I realize that in journalism today —an uninterrupted stream of facts and events recorded twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week — it’s not always easy to get to the truth, or at least get close to it. Life is not all black or white. Even in journalism, we must be able to discern between shades of gray in the events that we are called to tell.”
The pontiff reminded listeners that history was full of dictators determined to control the media and silence professional truth-tellers.
“The task of journalism – I dare say, its vocation – is therefore to nurture the social dimension of man, favoring the building of true citizenship.”
He also discussed the value of writing with concern for human dignity, speaking of words as potential weapons.
“Criticism is legitimate and necessary,” said Pope Francis, “as is the denouncement of wrongdoing, but this must always be done with respect for the other, his life, and his affections.”
Concerned over the negative impact of unethical reporting, he stated: “Journalism cannot be a weapon for the destruction of people or even populations. Nor must it fuel fears in relation to changes or phenomena such as forced migration due to war or hunger.”
The Holy Father finished the speech by saying he hoped that journalists “may be able to resist the temptation to foment confrontation, with a language that stokes the flames of division, instead favoring a culture of encounter.”
“Remind everyone every day that there is no conflict that cannot be resolved by women and men of goodwill,” he said.
The speech was given the same day the new constitution and by-laws for the Vatican Secretariat for Communications were published.
Read the full text of the speech here.