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Pope Francis flanked by Valentina Alazraki (L) and  Philip Pullella (R). Pope Francis flanked by Valentina Alazraki (L) and Philip Pullella (R).  (Vatican Media)

Pope: Journalism entails embarking on a mission

Pope Francis on Saturday honoured two veteran journalists who report on the Vatican and the Holy See: Valentina Alazraki of Mexico and Philip Pullella, an Italian-born American who works for Reuters news agency.

By Vatican News staff reporter

“We are travelling companions! And today we are celebrating two expert journalists, who have always followed the Popes, the information on the Holy See and more generally the Catholic Church.” This is what Pope Francis said about Valentina Alazraki and Philip Pullella, conferring on them the title “Dame' and 'Knight' respectively, of the Grand Cross of the Order of Pope Pius.  The awards ceremony took place in the Vatican in the presence of journalists accredited to the Holy See Press Office.

Alazraki who reports for Noticieros Televisa and W Radio, began her journalism career in 1974, during the Pontificate of Saint Pope Paul VI.   Pullella, a journalist for some 40 years, has been covering the popes since John Paul II. Before joining Reuters in 1983 he worked for United Press International.  

“How many shared experiences, how many journeys, how many events you have experienced in first person, recounting them to your viewers and readers!” Pope Francis told the two senior correspondents.  While honouring the two, the Pope said he also wanted “to pay homage” to the entire community of journalists present there saying, “the Pope loves you, follows you, esteems you and considers you precious”.

A mission

“Journalism,” he said, “does not come so much by choosing a profession, as by launching oneself on a mission", to explain the world, make it less obscure, make people less afraid and look at others with greater confidence. Gathering and processing of ideas for a news piece is a difficult and complicated mission that could lead to being crushed by the news itself instead of being able to make sense of it.  Hence in order “to preserve and cultivate that sense of mission, the Pope encouraged them to keep in mind what he considers the three marks of good journalism: listening, going deep and storytelling. 

Journalism does not come so much by choosing a profession, as by launching oneself on a mission, a bit like a doctor, who studies and works so that evil is cured in the world.

Listening

Listening, the Pope explained, means having the patience to meet face to face with the people to be interviewed and with the protagonists and sources of stories and news.   

This entails seeing and being on-site in order to be able to convey first-hand the nuances, sensations and descriptions to readers, listeners and spectators.   This means escaping “the tyranny of always being online, on social networks, on the web”, which he said, is difficult. Good listening and seeing, he said, needs time, as everything cannot be told through email, the telephone, or a screen. In this regard, he pointed to his message for this year’s message for  World Communications Day where he said the world needs journalists who are willing to "wear out the soles of their shoes", to get out of the newsrooms, walk around the cities, meet people and verify the situations in which we live in our time.

Going deep

Secondly, every piece of news, fact or reality intended for reporting needs to be deepened and explored.  Unfortunately, he said, many people form their opinions on the huge mass of information available online and on social media, where sometimes the logic of simplification and opposition prevails.  Hence the importance of good journalism based on in-depth analysis.

Apart from what the web offers, good journalism can offer the context, the precedents, the keys to interpretation that help to situate the fact that has happened.

In this regard, the Pope said that information about the Holy See, not everything said is always "new" or "revolutionary". However, Church Tradition and the Magisterium continue and develop, confronting the ever new demands of the times in which we live and illuminating them with the Gospel.

Storytelling

Lastly, a good journalist needs to be curious about reality and passionate about telling it. A journalist allows himself or herself to be struck and sometimes "wounded" by the stories in order to be able to tell them with humility to our readers.  “Today, we are in great need of journalists and communicators who are passionate about reality, who are able to find the treasures that are often hidden in the folds of our society,” and recount them, allowing themselves to be impressed and broaden their minds.

The Pope made it an occasion to thank the journalists for reporting about “what is 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”.

He reminded them that the Church is not a political organization, a parliament, or a large multinational company based on marketing strategies.  Made up of men and women who are sinners, the Church tends to fall into this worldly temptation.  Instead, the Church was born and exists to reflect the light of Jesus, making herself a vehicle for His embrace of mercy offered to all.

13 November 2021, 13:00