By Gabriella Ceraso
The Pope’s meeting at Casa Santa Marta on Monday with a group of journalists from Catholic News Service (CNS) began with a prayer and then took the form of a dialogue. The news agency of the US Bishops’ Conference is marking the 100th anniversary of its foundation. According to the journalists present, the Holy Father spoke about his great desire to go to Iraq, a visit that will take place in March, barring a new wave of the Covid-19 contagion. Pope Francis said he wanted to show his closeness to the Iraqi people, as Pope St John Paul II had intended to do in 2000, although the latter was unable to make the journey.
In a written speech that was handed to those present, the Pope referred to the history of Catholic News Service as “an invaluable contribution to the English-speaking world” in the search for truth “in an age when truth can be easily manipulated and misinformation spread.” Then, speaking informally with the delegation from CNS, he spoke about the role of journalists who should help people distinguish between good and evil, and should contribute to dialogue.
Helping unity and not promoting divisions
Dialogue, unity, and fraternity were the key words in the Pope’s answers to various questions from the journalists, beginning with a consideration of the role of Catholic information today in the service of the Church in the United States, which Pope Francis described as a “courageous” and “living.”
The Holy Father encouraged them to seek “the unity of the Church, because the Church divided is not the Church; it is the Church in temptation. He called on journalists “to help the Church come out of temptation… to encourage the parties to see reason… to seek the path of fraternity” by striving for unity – because, he said, “a means of communication that throws gas on the fire does not help,” and “the path of division leads nowhere.” Unity, he emphasized, “is not uniformity,” but rather unity despite differences. “We can argue,” he said, “but having the same heart.”
Hope for the Church in the United States
When asked about the state of the Church in the US today, Pope Francis stressed its “liveliness,” pointing especially to the vast network of Catholic schools and the many efforts aimed at assisting immigrants and helping them to integrate. He singled out Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, for their leadership in this area.
Pope Francis described the Church in the United States as a “living” Church, which is “catholic in the sense of ‘universal’.” The Church in America, he said, “is generous and humble” because it has suffered “the crisis of abuse allegations,” and has bowed its head, repented, and obeyed, even when undertaking necessary investigations. And, he said, it is a “Church that prays,” which will have its faults – as all communities do – but upon which, Pope Francis insisted, he looks “with hope.”
The sins of journalism
Recalling a congress of print journalists in Argentina some years ago, Pope Francis said he spoke at the time about four “sins” that afflict the profession. The first is “misinformation,” or “giving one side without the other.” On the contrary, he said, one can see nuances by giving both sides. Misinformation, then, is a sin because it leads to error.
The second sin, “slander,” is a grave sin” that consists in harming a person’s reputation “with a lie,” while the third, “defamation,” sullies a person by recalling a past that no longer exists.”
Finally, the Pope denounced “coprophilia,” which he described as “the love of filth,” which is motivated by the fact that “scandals sell.” People often have the vice of “coprophagia,” or consuming scandals.
Pope Francis forcefully warned journalists against falling into these sins.