Pope Francis wants journalists around the world to restore the dignity of the profession by sticking to the truth and doing away with fake news, which he said dates back to the creation of humanity when the “crafty serpent” lied to the woman.
This was the core of a message he delivered at St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, for the 52nd anniversary of the Vatican-sponsored World Communications Day, which will be officially marked on May 13, the Sunday before Pentecost.
“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,” Pope Francis said.
“This was the strategy employed by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis, who, at the dawn of humanity, created the first fake news, which began the tragic history of human sin, beginning with the first fratricide and issuing in the countless other evils committed against God, neighbour, society and creation.
“This biblical episode brings to light an essential element for our reflection: There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis described “fake news,” as a “sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, (which) leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred”.
“Disinformation thus thrives on the absence of healthy confrontation with other sources of information that could effectively challenge prejudices and generate constructive dialogue; instead, it risks turning people into unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas,” the Pope’s message read.
“I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news and to rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth.
“Praiseworthy efforts are being made to create educational programs aimed at helping people to interpret and assess information provided by the media, and teaching them to take an active part in unmasking falsehoods, rather than unwittingly contributing to the spread of disinformation.”
The theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 2018 World Communication Day is “The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace.”
Catholics have been observing World Communication day since 1967, and the Pope’s message is traditionally published on January 24 on the feastday of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.
Pope Francis has fallen victim to fake news himself. First when a fake news site falsely reported the Pope endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. And then again, when another fake news site falsely reported he endorsed Donald Trump for President.