Pope Francis Urges Catholic Media ‘Fact-Checkers’ to ‘Refute’ Fake News

Pope Francis addresses the faithful as he leads the Celebration of the Second Vespers, on January 25, 2022 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP) (Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

ROME, Italy — Pope Francis praised Catholic communicators in the Vatican on Friday for their efforts at unmasking “fake news and partial or misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines.”

“We can hardly fail to see that these days, in addition to the pandemic, an ‘infodemic’ is spreading: a distortion of reality based on fear, which in our global society leads to an explosion of commentary on falsified if not invented news,” the pontiff said in reference to those who question the efficacy and long-term effects of coronavirus vaccines as well as their imposition on the population.

“Contributing, often unwittingly, to this climate is the sheer volume of allegedly ‘scientific’ information, comments and opinions, which ends up causing confusion for the reader or listener,” Francis said.

To be “properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news, is a human right,” the pope declared. “Correct information must be ensured above all to those who are less equipped, to the weakest and to those who are most vulnerable.”

The pope said that misguided journalists and opinion makers should be treated with respect as persons despite their errors.

As Christians, “we are against injustices and lies, but always for persons,” he said. “Even if the purpose of your Consortium is to combat disinformation, to refute fake news and the manipulation of more impressionable minds, the fundamental distinction between information and people must never be overlooked.”

The pope also acknowledged that a certain amount of skepticism should be permitted in science, rather than jumping aboard the bandwagon.

The approach of a Christian communicator “is not one of conflict, it is not marked by an attitude of superiority, and it does not simplify reality, so as not to fall into a kind of ‘fideism’ when it comes to science,” he said.

“Science itself is a constant process of advancing towards the solution of problems,” he stated. “Reality is always more complex than we think and we must respect the doubts, the concerns and the questions that people raise, seeking to accompany them without ever dismissing them.”

“We should work to help provide correct and truthful information about Covid-19 and vaccines, without digging trenches or creating ghettos,” Francis said.

“May we never tire of verifying data, presenting them in a suitable way, pursuing our own search for truth,” he urged. “That search cannot yield to a commercial viewpoint, to the interests of the powerful, to the great economic interests.”

Being together for truth also means “seeking an antidote to algorithms projected to maximize commercial profit; it means working to promote an informed, just, sound and sustainable society,” he said, in apparent reference to social media platforms that depend on algorithms in their own fact-checking.

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