The charter of the good journalist according to Pope Francis: “listen, deepen, tell”

Dear friends, hello!

I am happy to welcome you here, after having often met you in the corridors of planes, during our interviews at high altitude, or crossed during the celebrations and various meetings during my apostolic pilgrimages throughout the world. We are travel companions! And today we are celebrating two expert journalists, who have always followed the popes, news about the Holy See and more generally the Catholic Church. One of them is your “dean”, Valentina Alazraki, reporter here. She has been practicing papal flights for 47 years: she entered immediately after her First Communion! The first time, very young, she got on the plane that took Saint John Paul II to Puebla in 1979, and she gave the Pope a sombrero, one of those big Mexican hats. The other is your “dean”, Phil Pullella, also a veteran and well-known Vatican information specialist. How many shared experiences, how many trips, how many live events have you told your viewers and readers! And I wouldn’t want to forget someone I carry in my heart because he was a good man: a Russian who left us, [Aleksei] Bukhalov. Let us also remember him today. A good travel companion.

With this decoration given to Valentina and Phil, I want today, in a certain way, to pay tribute to your entire working community; tell you that the Pope loves you, that he follows you, esteem you, and that you are precious in his eyes. You don’t become a journalist like you choose a profession, but by embarking on a mission, a bit like a doctor, who studies and works to cure the ills of the world. Your mission is to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live there fear it less, be more aware of others, and trust them more. It is not an easy mission. It is complicated to think, to reflect, to delve deeper, to stop to gather ideas and to study the context and the precedents of a piece of information. The risk, as you well know, is letting yourself be overwhelmed by information without being able to give it meaning. This is why I encourage you to preserve and cultivate this sense of mission which is at the origin of your choice. And I do it with three verbs which, it seems to me, characterize good journalism: listen, deepen, tell.

To listen is a verb which concerns you as journalists, but which concerns us all as a Church, whatever the time and in particular today when the synodal process began. For a journalist, listening means having the patience to meet face to face with the people to be interviewed, the actors in the stories he reports, the sources from which he collects the information. Listening always goes hand in hand with seeing, being there: certain nuances, certain sensations or descriptions, if they are to be complete, can only be transmitted to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen things by himself. It means evading – and I know how difficult it is in your job! – to escape the tyranny of always being online, on social networks, on the web. Good journalism, the one who listens and sees, needs time. Not everything can be told by e-mail, over the phone or on a screen. As I recalled in this year’s post for Social Communications Day, we need journalists who are ready to “wear out the soles of their shoes”, to get out of newsrooms, to walk around cities. , to meet people, to be as close as possible to what is happening today. Listening is the first word that came to my mind.

The second : deepen, this second verb, is a consequence of seeing and listening. Every piece of information, every fact that we talk about, every reality that we describe must be deepened. At a time when millions of information is available on the web and where many people get information and form an opinion on social media, where unfortunately the logic of simplification and polarization sometimes prevails, the most important contribution that can bring good journalism is that of in-depth analysis. Indeed, what more can you offer those who read or listen to you than what they already find on the web? You can offer the context, the precedents, keys of interpretation which help to situate the fact which occurred. You know very well that, even when it comes to information about the Holy See, not everything that is said is always “new” or “revolutionary”. I tried to demonstrate this in my recent address to popular movements, when I indicated the references to the social doctrine of the Church on which my remarks were based. Tradition and the Magisterium continue and develop by confronting the ever new demands of the times in which we live, in the light of the Gospel.

Listen, deepen, and the third verb: tell. I don’t have to explain it to you, you who have become journalists precisely because you are curious about reality and your passion is to tell it. Telling means not putting yourself in the foreground, nor setting yourself up as a judge, but it is letting yourself be touched and sometimes even affected by the stories that we encounter, so that we can tell them with humility to our readers. Reality is an excellent antidote to many “diseases”. The reality, that is, what is happening, the lives and the testimonies of the people, is what deserves to be told. I think of the little books you do, Valentina, about women who experience the tyranny of abuse. Today we are in great need of journalists and communicators passionate about reality, capable of finding the treasures often hidden in the folds of our society and of telling them, thus allowing us to be touched, to learn, to expand. our thinking, to grasp aspects that we did not know before. I appreciate your effort to tell the truth. The diversity of approaches, styles, points of view linked to different cultures or religious affiliations is also a wealth for information. I also thank you for what you tell us about what is wrong with the Church, for the help you give us not to hide it under the carpet and for the word you have given to victims of abuse. , thank you for that.

And, please also remember that the Church is not a political organization that has people from left and right, as it is in parliaments. Sometimes, unfortunately, we reduce it to that in our considerations, with some roots in the real. But no, the Church is not that. It is not a large multinational company run by managers who are discussing around a table how to best sell their product. The Church does not build itself on the basis of its own project, it does not draw from itself the strength to move forward, it does not live on marketing strategies. Whenever she falls into this worldly temptation – and she falls, and has fallen very often – the Church, without realizing it, believes she has her own light and forgets that she is the “mysterium lunae”Of which the Fathers of the first centuries spoke – that is to say that the Church is authentic only in the light of another, like the moon. And when she forgets it, her action loses its vigor and is useless. The Church, composed of men and women who are sinners like the others, was born and exists to reflect the light of another, the light of Jesus, as the moon does with the sun. The Church exists to bring the word of Jesus to the world and to make possible today the encounter with the living Jesus, making herself the vector of his embrace of mercy offered to all.

Thank you, dear friends, for this meeting. Thank you and congratulations to our two “deans”, who today become “Lady” and “Knight” Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX. Thanks to all of you for the work you do. Thank you for your search for the truth, for only the truth sets us free. Thank you !


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