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Choose your words carefully, Pope tells Catholic media

Pope Francis (CNS)

In a world where words and images are used to manipulate or to scapegoat people, Catholic media must use them with a care that shows how powerful words can be, Pope Francis has said.

“Reawaken words! This is the first task of a communicator. Every word has a spark of fire and life inside it,” he told employees of the Italian Catholic bishops’ television station TV 2000 earlier this week.

Pope Francis showed up more than half an hour late for his meeting with the employees on Monday, so he began his talk with a word of apology and an explanation that almost every meeting he had that morning went 10 minutes over the scheduled time, “so you paid the price”.

Too often communications media have been used for “propaganda, ideologies, political aims or for economic or technical control,” he said. The best way to avoid that is “to have the courage to speak frankly and freely.”

“If we are truly convinced of what we have to say, the words will come,” he said. “If, on the other hand, we are preoccupied with tactical aspects, our words will be artificial and uncommunicative, insipid.”

With carefully chosen words, he said, the Catholic media must attempt to explain complicated situations without oversimplifying them. Too often, he said, the media pretend that one person has all the answers or that one person or group of people is to blame. He siad that working in the media was about infomring people not simply collecting hits.

The media have become “faster and less reflective” as deadlines get tighter and people expect immediate access to the news, he said. Audiences have a right to be treated as people with both a brain and a heart, and to receive the information they need to make judgments about what is going on in the world.

The Pope also said that there were “three sins” which communicators must avoid: misinformation, slander, and defamation.

While the most “insidious” of these would appear to be slander, he continued, the most serious, in terms of communication, is in fact misinformation, for it “leads you to believe only one part of the truth.”