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Media, faithful urged to be truthful in sharing stories

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines called on media and the faithful to share stories that will strengthen the community, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Be courageous to bring out the truth, especially in the midst of out situation now,” said Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit Jr., head of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications.

“The people need the truth,” added the prelate of the Diocese of Boac in his message on the 54th observance of World Communications Day on Sunday, May 24.

He called on media to always report the truth. He also reminded journalists of the importance of fairness and their role in countering the spread of “fake news,” especially in social media.

Bishop Maralit said it is the mission of the Church and all its members to share good stories of truth to the community.

“It is an invitation to all the faithful, not only to communicators, that we continue to share the story of the love of God based on the stories of our lives as Christians facing a pandemic,” said the prelate.

The bishop, meanwhile, thanked those who volunteered in the Church’s social communications ministry for their role in dioceses and parishes in the midst of the pandemic.

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“I always thank them,” he said. “I’m always telling them about the importance of the role they play in bringing the Good News to the people,” added Bishop Maralit.

He urged church workers “to take courage because we are given this opportunity.”

Television journalists interview a source in Manila. Pope Francis has called on media workers to always report the truth. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Value of good storytelling

Pope Francis, in his message for the occasion titled “That you may tell your children and grandchildren,” stressed the importance of stories.

The pope said the world need “stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together.”

“Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us,” said the pontiff.

Highlighting the value of storytelling, Pope Francis underscored the urgency for Catholics to overcome the temptation of destructive stories.

The pontiff said stories can help people understand and communicate who they are because “human beings are storytellers” who need to be “‘clothed’ with stories to protect our lives.”

Pope Francis reminded the faithful that communication is authentic if it builds and does not destroy and storytellers should be “humble” in the “search for truth.”

The pontiff, however, denounced stories that “lull us, convincing us that to be happy we continually need to gain, possess and consume.”

He condemned “chatter and gossip”and “how much violence and falsehood we are consuming” that will only result in the spread of “destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society.”

“Amid today’s many troubles, we need stories that reveal who we truly are, also in the untold heroism of everyday life,” said the pope.

A church worker manages the online broadcast of Good Friday celebrations in the Diocese of Cubao in the Philippine capital amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Bishops as ‘chief storyteller’

Bishops should serve as “chief storyteller” in their dioceses and should use all media at their disposal to “make known” stories “of faith and hope.”

This was the call made by Helen Osman, head of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, based in Brussels, this week.

She said Catholic media outlets across the world can provide “basic tools” to the faithful “to spot” false stories.

“The narratives that we live by must reflect the vision of the interconnectedness of all human life,” said Osman in a statement released ahead of World Communications Day.

She urged members of SIGNIS “to see as a moment of grace this unique passage: Faced with a pandemic, we are called to create a narrative that can change lives and history itself.”

“Our Catholic tradition is an ongoing story that must be renewed with each generation,” said Osman.

“Many of the stories that relate to the experience of people today are told in secular media, printed and otherwise,” she noted.

“In some cultures, the role of traditional storytellers serves the same role,” Osman said. “In all cases, their power derives from their affirmation of deeper truths of the human condition, especially the enduring strength of love.”

“How do you offer guidance to your people to see and reflect on the truth where it may be found in the media, arts, and in local traditions, perhaps in places they may not expect it?” she asked bishops.

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