- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2016

In a speech Thursday to a gathering of professional Italian journalists, Pope Francis warned the roughly 400 reporters in the audience to be careful of spreading rumors, which he called a form of terrorism.

The 79-year-old leader of the Catholic Church “urged journalists not to stoke fear regarding phenomena such as migration forced by war or hunger,” according to Catholic news website CruxNow.com.

“I have often spoken of rumors as ‘terrorism,’ of how you can kill a person with the tongue,” Francis said, CruxNow reported. “If this is valid for an individual person, in the family or at work, so much more it’s valid for journalists, because their voice can reach everyone, and this is a very powerful weapon.

“Even in journalism, it’s necessary to discern between the shades of gray of the events being told,” said Francis, who encouraged the gathering to be “instrument[s] of construction” to build up, rather than tear down, society.

Francis may have been referring to right-wing newspapers who have taken the bishop to task for his outspoken support for the plight of Syrian refugees, Reuters reported.

While the pope’s “terrorist” comparison may be stark, the thrust of his admonition accords with the Church’s official Catechism.

“By the very nature of their profession, journalists have an obligation to serve the truth and not offend against charity in disseminating information,” notes an entry in the Catechism devoted to the 8th Commandment against bearing false witness. “They should strive to respect, with equal care, the nature of the facts and the limits of critical judgment concerning individuals. They should not stoop to defamation.”

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