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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Meeting with Journalists

At noon today, in the Sala Clementina at the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the National Council of the Order of Journalists.  Following greetings offered by the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, Monsignor Dario E. ViganĂ² and the President of the Order of Journalists, Enzo Iacopino, the Pope shared the following speech:

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to the National Council of the
Order of Journalists

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank you for your visit.  In particular, I thank the President for the words with which he introduced our meeting.  I also thank the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications for his words.

There are few professions that have as much influence on society as does journalism.  Journalists have a role of great importance and at the same time, they have great responsibility.  In a way, you write the first draft of history, creating the agenda of the news and introducing people to various interpretations of events.  This is very important.  Times are changing and the way that journalism is done is also changing.  Both the print media and television are losing relevance compared with newer forms of media in the digital world - especially among the young - but journalists, when they act with professionalism, remain as cornerstones, a fundamental element for the vitality of a free and pluralistic society.  The Holy See too - faced with changes in the world of media - has experienced and is experiencing a process of renewal with regard to our systems of communication, which should also benefit you; and the Secretariat for Communications will be the natural point of reference for your precious work.

Today, I want to share with you a reflection concerning some aspects of journalistic professionalism, and how this can serve to improve the society in which we live.  For all of us, it is indispensable that we stop and reflect on what we are doing and on how we are doing it.  In the spiritual life, this assumes at times the form of a day of retreat, of interior deepening.  I think that even in professional life, we need this exercise, a bit of time to stop and to reflect.  Certainly, this is not easy to do in the field of journalism, a profession that thrives on continual delivery deadlines and time limits.  But, at least for a brief moment, we can seek to deepen the reality of journalism a bit.

I will focus on three elements: to love the truth, something fundamental for all people, but especially for journalists; to live professionally, something that goes beyond the limits of laws and regulations; and to respect human dignity, which is much more difficult than we might think at first glance.

To love the truth means not only to affirm it, but to live truth, to bear witness to it with your work.  T olive and to work, therefore, consistently with respect to the words that are used in a newspaper article or a televised service.  The question here is to be or not to be a believer.  The question here is to be or not to be honest with yourself and with others.  One's relationship is at the heart of every communication.  This is especially true for people in the field of communications.  No relationship can stand up and withstand the test of time if it is based in dishonesty.  I realize that in journalism today -  an uninterrupted flow of facts and events that are recounted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - it is not always easy to find the truth, or at least to get close to it.  Not everything in life is black and white.  The same is true in journalism, we need to know how to discern between the various shades of grey of the events that we are called to relate.  Political debates and even many conflicts are rarely the result of distinctly clear dynamics, in which we can clearly and unambiguously recognize who is wrong and who is right.  Confrontation and sometimes clashes themselves, are born precisely in the difficulty of synthesizing between various positions.  This work -  we could also say this mission - which is difficult and necessary for journalists, at the same time the challenge to get as close as possible to the truth of the facts and never to say or write anything that we know in conscience is not the truth.

The second element: to live with professionalism means first of all - in addition to what we can find written in the codes of ethics - to understand, to internalize the profound sense of one's own work.  Thus the need to not submit one's own profession to the logic of partisan interests, whether economical or political.  The task of journalism, I dare say its vocation, is therefore - through attention, care for the search for truth - to make known the social dimension of mankind, to encourage the construction of true citizenship. Against this backdrop of a broader horizon, therefore, to work with professionalism means not only responding to concerns, even if they are legitimate, of a certain character, but to have at heart one of the lintels of the structure of a democratic society.  You should always make us reflect on the fact that, throughout the course of history, dictatorships - of any orientation or colour - have always sought not only to take control of the media, but also to impose new rules on the profession of journalism.

And thirdly: to respect the human dignity and the importance of every profession, and especially in journalism, for even behind the simple telling of an event there are sentiments, emotions and ultimately, people's lives.  I have often spoken about gossip as a type of terrorism, about how it is possible to kill a person with the tongue.  If this is true for individual persons, in a family or in our work, it is all the more true for journalists, because their voices can reach all people, and this is a very powerful weapon.  Journalism should always respect the dignity of a person.  An article can be published today and tomorrow it will be replaced by another, but the life of a person who is unjustly defamed can be destroyed forever.  Certainly criticism is legitimate, and I would say more: it is necessary, as is the denunciation of evil, but this should always be done with respect for others, for their lives, for their feelings.  Journalism cannot become a weapon of destruction with regard to people or to nations.  Neither should it feed fear in the face of changes or phenomena such as forced migration due to war or hunger.

I hope that journalism is used more and more and in all places as an instrument of construction, to build up the common good, to accelerate the process of reconciliation; I hope that journalists will always know how to reject the temptation to feed into clashes, the use of language that might fan the flames of division, and instead promote a culture of encounter.  You journalists can remind everyone every day that there is no conflict that cannot be resolved by men and women of good will.

I thank you for this meeting; I wish you every good wish for your work.  May the Lord bless you.  I accompany you with my prayers and my support, and I ask you please to pray for me.  Thank you.
(Original text in Italian)
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