Pope Francis called the deception of Eve by the “crafty serpent” the original “fake news” in his message for World Communications Day, which aimed at holding journalists accountable and ending the prevalence of disinformation, BuzzFeed News reports. “There is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences,” the pope explained. “Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.”
The pope further urged vigilance in guarding oneself against the “snake tactics” of dishonest journalists who can “strike at any time.”
Journalists, “the protectors of news,” have a “weighty responsibility,” Francis added, and they need to resist “feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop.” He proposed instead “a journalism less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts, in order to promote deeper understanding and contribute to their resolution by setting in place virtuous processes.”
The term “fake news” was popularized by President Trump, and CNN notes that the pope is “probably sending a message” to world leaders who use the phrase. The pope additionally used his message, which falls on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists, to urge for an “education for truth” in order to help people recognize the “sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.”
Pope Francis’ comments for World Communication Day are not his first condemnation of fake news. “It is important that, methodically and with patience, criteria of judgment and information be offered so that the public is able to understand and discern, and is not stunned and disoriented,” he urged in December. Read more of the pope’s message for World Communications Day at BuzzFeed News.