“Leave behind the logic of slogans and pre-packaged stories,” the Pope said, emphasizing how the Synod on Synodality is “truly important for the Church.”
“I dare to ask you, the experts of journalism, for help: Help me to narrate this process for what it really is,” Pope Francis told a delegation of Italian journalists on August 26, 2023, regarding the Synod on Synodality. The journalists had come to the Vatican to award the Pontiff the “It’s Journalism” prize for his efforts to promote truth and justice. While certain voices are concerned about where the Synod may lead, Francis took this meeting as an opportunity to urge journalists to depict “reality” when reporting on this process, which he sees as important for the Church and the world.
The Synod on Synodality on the future of the Church was initiated by Pope Francis in 2021. It has featured a diocesan and continental phase where Catholic faithful all over the world were able to share and discern on how they see the Church today and in the future.
The next phase is coming soon, in October 2023 with a General Assembly in Rome, and then another meeting in 2024.
An “urgency of constructive communication”
Pope Francis started his speech to the journalists by highlighting that he does not usually accept awards, and did not do so even before becoming Pontiff. However, he accepted this one because of the “urgency of constructive communication” needed in society, “which fosters the culture of encounter and not of confrontation.”
He thus told the journalists he had a “request for help.”
“But I am not asking you for money, rest assured!” he joked. The Pontiff called on journalists to help him “narrate” the Synod on Synodality “for what it really is, leaving behind the logic of slogans and pre-packaged stories.”
“Someone said: ‘The only truth is reality.’ Yes, reality. We will all benefit from this, and I am sure that this too ‘is journalism,’” he said, echoing the title of the prize he received.
“Precisely at this time, when there is much talk and little listening, and when the sense of the common good is in danger of weakening, the Church as a whole has embarked on a journey to rediscover the word together,” the Pope said, explaining how in October bishops and lay people will come together for the Synod. “Listening together, discerning together, praying together. The word together is very important.”
No one is excluded
The Pontiff acknowledged not everyone may be enthusiastic about the Synod, but emphasized why he believes this process is fundamental for the Church’s future and has roots dating back to the end of the Second Vatican Council.
“I am well aware that speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality‘ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, of little interest to the general public. But what has happened over the past year, which will continue with the assembly next October and then with the second stage of Synod 2024, is something truly important for the Church,” he said.
“Please, let us get used to listening to each other, to talking, not cutting our heads off for a word. To listen, to discuss in a mature way. This is a grace we all need in order to move forward,” he added.
“And it is something the Church today offers the world, a world so often so incapable of making decisions, even when our very survival is at stake. We are trying to learn a new way of living relationships, listening to one another to hear and follow the voice of the Spirit. […] That word of the Gospel that is so important: everyone.”
The four sins of journalism
The Pope also underlined that journalists play a crucial role in a society where “everyone seems to comment on everything, even regardless of the facts and often even before being informed.”
He encouraged them to “cultivate more the principle of reality – reality is superior to the idea, always.”
He identified four “sins of journalism” that reporters need to be aware of : “disinformation, when journalism does not inform or informs badly; slander (sometimes this is used); defamation, which is different from slander but destroys; and the fourth is coprophilia, that is, the love of scandal, of filth; scandal sells. Disinformation is the first of the sins, the mistakes – let’s say – of journalism.”
“I am concerned, for example, about the manipulations of those who interestingly propagate fake news to steer public opinion,” he said. “Please, let us not give in to the logic of opposition, let us not be influenced by the language of hatred.”