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  • jthavis

Papal advice to journalists

A potentially divisive Synod of Bishops is fast approaching, and Pope Francis appears to be concerned about how the October assembly will be treated by the world’s press.

On Aug. 26 he gave a brief talk to a group of Italian journalists, who were at the Vatican to present the pope with an award for his contributions to dialogue and peace. The pope noted that he’s made it a policy to decline such accolades, but was making an exception – probably because he had a message to get across.

He began with a plea to avoid the “sins of journalism,” which in the pope’s catechism include disinformation, slander, defamation and “the love of scandal.” That last one is difficult, he added, because “scandal sells.”

The pope said the upcoming synod will focus on “listening to each other … in a mature way.” He asked journalists to respect that process, rather than look for conflict among participants:

"We have opened our doors, we have offered everyone the opportunity to participate, we have taken into account everyone's needs and suggestions. We want to contribute together to build the Church where everyone feels at home, where no-one is excluded.


Therefore I dare to ask you, the experts of journalism, for help: help me to narrate this process for what it really is, leaving behind the logic of slogans and pre-packaged stories."

Previous editions of the Synod of Bishops under Pope Francis have witnessed unusually open expression of opinions and occasional disputes, to a degree not seen since the synod was established in 1965.

All signs point to another lively assembly this fall, when the synod takes up the question of “synodality” itself – a topic that will probably include debate over the decision-making process in the church, clericalism, and the role of laity. Given the nature of the church and the make-up of the assembly, I expect the prevailing climate to be one of harmony. Given the nature of journalism, I expect reporters to focus on areas of disagreement.



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