SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO MEMBERS OF THE FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION IN ITALY
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
With pleasure I welcome you, together with your family, a few days after the celebration, in many countries, of World Communications Day. I thank the outgoing President, Mrs. Esma Çakir, and the new President, Mrs. Patricia Thomas, for the words they addressed to me.
I want to tell you first of all that I value your work; the Church esteems you, even when you put your finger on the wound, and perhaps the wound is in the ecclesial community. Yours is a precious work because it contributes to the search for truth, and only the truth makes us free. In this regard, I like to repeat what St. John Paul II said when he visited the headquarters of your Association 31 years ago: "The Church is on your side. Be Christian or not, in the Church you will always find the right esteem for your work and the recognition of freedom of the press "(17 January 1988: Insegnamenti XI, 1 , 135).
Yours is an indispensable role, and this also gives you a great responsibility: it asks for a particular care for the words you use in your articles, for the images you transmit in your services, for everything you share on social media. This is why today I renew to you an exhortation that applies to everyone in the digital age: as Benedict XVI said, sometimes "the mass media tend to always make us feel" spectators ", as if the evil only concerned others, and certain things could never happen to us. Instead we are all "actors" and, in evil as well as in good, our behavior has an influence on others "(Speech in Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2009: Insegnamenti V, 2 , 672). I therefore urge you to work according to truth and justice, so that communication is really a tool to build, not to destroy; to meet, not to clash; to dialogue, not to monologize; to orient, not to disorient; to understand each other, not to misunderstand; to walk in peace, not to sow hatred; to give voice to those who have no voice, not to be the megaphone for those who shout louder.
I was struck by the many references to humility present in your President's speech - after all, your headquarters is on Via dell'Umiltà! Humility is an essential virtue for spiritual life; but I would say that it can also be a fundamental element of your profession. Some of you might tell me: "Father, in our work there are other characteristics that count: professionalism, competence, historical memory, curiosity, writing skills, ability to investigate and ask the right questions, speed of synthesis, ability to make what happens to the vast public is understandable ... ". Certainly. Yet humility can be the keystone of your business.
Each of us knows how difficult and how much humility the search for truth requires. And how much easier it is not to ask too many questions, to be satisfied with the first answers, to simplify, to remain on the surface, to appear; settle for discounted solutions, which do not know the fatigue of a survey capable of representing the complexity of real life. The humility of not knowing everything first is what drives research. The presumption of knowing everything is what blocks it.
Humble journalists do not mean mediocre, but rather aware that through an article, a tweet, a live television or radio you can do good but also, if you are not careful and scrupulous, of harm to others and sometimes to entire communities. I am thinking, for example, of how certain "shouted" titles can create a false representation of reality. A rectification is always necessary when one is wrong, but it is not enough to restore dignity, especially at a time when, through the Internet, false information can spread to the point of appearing authentic. For this, you journalists should always consider the power of the tool you have available, and resist the temptation to publish an insufficiently verified news.
In a time when many tend to pre-judge everything and everyone, humility also helps the journalist not to be dominated by haste, to try to stop, to find the time necessary to understand. Humility brings us closer to reality and to others with an attitude of understanding. The humble journalist tries to correctly know the facts in their entirety before telling and commenting on them. It does not nourish "the excess of slogans which, instead of setting the thought in motion, cancel it" (Speech to the managers, employees and operators of TV2000, 15 December 2014). It does not build stereotypes. He is not satisfied with representations of convenience that portray "individuals as if they were able to solve all problems, or on the contrary as scapegoats, on which to discharge all responsibility" (ibid.).
At a time when, especially in social media but not only, many use violent and derogatory language, with words that hurt and sometimes destroy people, it is rather to calibrate the language and, as your patron Saint Francis of Sales said in Philothea, use the word how the surgeon uses the scalpel (see chapter XXIX). In a time of too many hostile words, in which to speak ill of others has become for many a habit, together with that of classifying people, it must always be remembered that every person has his intangible dignity, which can never be taken away. At a time when many spread fake news, humility prevents you from selling the spoiled food of misinformation and invites you to offer the good bread of truth.
The humble journalist is a free journalist. Free from conditioning. Free from prejudices, and therefore courageous. Freedom requires courage!
I listened with pain to the statistics on your colleagues killed while doing their work with courage and dedication in many countries, to inform about what happens during the wars and the dramatic situations that so many of our brothers and sisters live in the world. Freedom of the press and of expression is an important index of a country's state of health. Let us not forget that dictatorships, one of the first measures they take, are to remove the freedom of the press or "disguise it", do not leave the press free. «We need a free journalism, at the service of the true, of the good, of the right; a journalism that helps to build the culture of encounter "(Pontifex Tweet, 3 May 2019). We need journalists who are on the side of the victims, on the side of those who are persecuted, on the side of those who are excluded, rejected, discriminated against. You and your work are needed to be helped not to forget many situations of suffering, which often do not have the light of the spotlight, or they have it for a moment and then return to the darkness of indifference. A question that one of you asked me a short time ago comes to my heart and memory: "What do you think of forgotten wars?" But what wars do you forget? Those wars that are still going on but people forget about, are not on the agenda in the newspapers, in the media. Be careful: don't forget the reality, because now "the blow has passed". No, reality continues, we continue. This is a nice service. In concrete terms, wars forgotten by society, but which are still ongoing.
This is why I want to thank you for what you do. Because you help us not to forget the lives that are suffocated before they are even born; those that, when just born, are extinguished by hunger, hardship, lack of care, wars; the lives of child soldiers, the lives of violated children. Help us not to forget so many women and men persecuted for their faith or their ethnicity. I ask myself a question: who is speaking today about the Rohingya? Who's talking about the Yazidis today? They are forgotten and continue to suffer. Help us not to forget that those forced - from calamities, wars, terrorism, hunger and thirst - to leave their land is not a number, but a face, a story, a desire for happiness. Your President talked about migrants: we must not forget this Mediterranean that is turning into a cemetery.
The humble and free journalist tries to tell the good, even if more often it is the evil that makes the news. What has always comforted me in my ministry as a bishop is to find out how much good there is between us, how many people sacrifice themselves - even heroically - to assist a parent or sick child, how many people engage in daily service to others, how many they stretch out their hands instead of turning away. Please continue to tell even that part of reality that thanks to God is still the most widespread: the reality of those who do not surrender to indifference, of those who do not flee before injustice, but build patiently in silence. There is a submerged ocean of good that deserves to be known and that gives strength to our hope. In this story, women are very attentive, and I am pleased to see that the contribution of women is fully recognized in your Association. Women see better and understand better, because they feel better.
In conclusion, I would like to assure you that I appreciate the commitment with which you carry out your work, which, lived in a spirit of service, becomes a mission. During my apostolic journeys I can realize the effort involved in your work. Furthermore, live far from your countries of origin and find yourself a mirror of the country in which you work, knowing how to grasp the positive and negative aspects. I invite you to be a mirror that knows how to reflect hope, sow hope. And I wish you to be humble and free men and women, who are the ones who leave a good imprint in history.
I thank you for this meeting. I bless you, your loved ones and your work. And you, too, please pray for me. And I would like to give everyone the blessing. I know that not all of you are believers, and for this I will do the blessing in silence, for everyone. May God bless everyone, bless everyone's heart. Amen.
Text Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Trans. - Image source: Vatican.va