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Catholic journalists ‘in the spirit of communion’ with Pope Francis work to oppose ‘the spread of the phenomenon of fake news’

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is pictured in a Jan. 1, 2021, photo. Media outlets that identify as Catholic must live "in a spirit of communion" with the pope, Cardinal Parolin said during a gala dinner for EWTN's Europe-based staff in Frascati, Italy, Oct. 19, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Media outlets that identify as Catholic must live “in a spirit of communion” with the pope, especially at a time of “overly dramatic debates, also within the church, which do not even spare the person and the magisterium of the pontiff,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin told employees of EWTN and its affiliated outlets.

“Communion is in the DNA of communication and is fundamentally its greatest aspiration,” the cardinal said. “A communication that instead fans the flames of polarization or builds walls instead of breaking them down, betrays its very nature.”

Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, spoke Oct. 19 at a dinner with Michael Warsaw, CEO of EWTN, and with the Europe-based employees of its television, radio and print media.

Vatican News and the Vatican press office published the cardinal’s full text after ACI Prensa, the Spanish-language news service owned by EWTN, ran a story under the headline, “Cardinal Pietro Parolin defines EWTN as ‘a work of God at the service of truth.'”

Instead, according to the text, the cardinal prayed that a “spirit of communion” with Pope Francis would be “the distinctive sign of your work” and that viewers and readers would be able to “recognize EWTN as a work of God at the service of the truth, ecclesial communion and the good of humanity.”

Pope Francis answers questions from reporters aboard his flight from Tokyo to Rome Nov. 26, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Truth, he said, is crucial for journalists and other communicators and is an issue that has “become ever more prominent in public debate due to both the spread of the phenomenon of fake news as well as of a type of communication often based on a distorted, or false, representation of the other.”

Such distortions are the results of “a type of fanaticism grounded in the conviction that the truth that one believes is so absolute as to legitimize the destruction of another person” and attempt “to impose one’s own view of truth upon everyone else.”

Cardinal Parolin quoted Mother Angelica, the late founder of EWTN, who said, “It is our duty to speak the truth, and each person can either assume or not assume this duty. But the truth must above all be within us.”

“The truth does not belong to us; we serve the truth,” the cardinal said. “And we can serve it only in love and in unity. We are its custodians, not its owners.”

Cardinal Parolin also quoted Pope Francis’ message in 2020 to the Catholic Media Association about how Catholic communicators must promote communion, especially “in an age marked by conflicts and polarization from which the Catholic community itself is not immune.”

“A large international news network, like EWTN, that invokes the Gospel message, is therefore called to promote understanding between people, dialogue between communities and the search for places and opportunities that create contact between distant worlds, sometimes in conflict with each other,” the cardinal said.

Media, especially those calling themselves Catholic, “must strive not to spread hate, but rather to promote a non-hostile communication.”