FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with people who have made a pilgrimage to Assisi, on a private visit, ahead of World Day of the Poor, to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Assisi , Italy, November 12, 2021. REUTERS / Yara Nardi
Pope Francis thanked reporters on Saturday for helping uncover the clerical sexual abuse scandals that the Roman Catholic Church had initially tried to cover up.
The Pope praised what he called journalism’s “mission” and said it was vital for journalists to step out of their newsrooms and find out what was going on in the outside world to counter the misinformation often found online.
“(I) thank you for what you tell us about what is wrong with the Church, for helping us not to sweep it under the carpet, and for the voice you have given to victims of abuse,” said the Pope.
Francis was speaking at a ceremony honoring two seasoned correspondents – Philip Pullella of Reuters and Valentina Alazraki of Noticieros Televisa in Mexico – for their long career in covering the Vatican.
Sexual abuse scandals hit the headlines in 2002, when the US daily The Boston Globe wrote a series of articles exposing a pattern of clerical abuse of minors and a widespread culture of cover-up within the Church. .
Since then, scandals have rocked the Church in a myriad of countries, most recently in France where a major investigation in October revealed that French clerics had sexually assaulted more than 200,000 children in the past 70 years.
Critics accused Francis of reacting too slowly to scandals after he became pontiff in 2013 and of believing the word of his fellow clergy rather than that of victims of abuse.
But in 2018, he tried to correct the mistakes of the past, publicly admitting he was wrong about a case in Chile and vowing that the Church would never seek to cover up such wrongdoing again. In 2019, he called for an “all-out battle” against a crime that should be “wiped from the face of the earth”.
François said on Saturday that the journalists were tasked “to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live there less fear it”.
To do this, he said journalists had to “escape the tyranny” of always being online. “It can’t all be said by email, over the phone or on a screen,” he said.