Pope Francis spoke about dialogue, the search for truth, and the inalienable dignity of every human person in a meeting on Friday with the Swedish Academy, which awards the yearly Nobel Prize in Literature.
“The pervasive growth of social media risks replacing dialogue with a welter of monologues, often aggressive in tone,” the pope said Nov. 19 in the Vatican’s Hall of Popes.
He added that COVID-19 had tested the capacity to dialogue with others. He pointed to the long periods of confinement and the deep effect that the pandemic has had on people, even unconsciously.
“We find ourselves a little more distant from others, a little more reserved, perhaps more guarded, or simply less inclined to join with others, to work side by side, with the satisfaction and effort born of building something together,” he noted.
This situation, he said, “threatens each of us as persons, since it diminishes our capacity for relationships, and impoverishes society and the world around us.”
Quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, he said that “social dialogue, instead, ‘involves the ability to respect the other’s point of view’ with sincerity and without deceit.”
“I wish to share this theme of social dialogue as the royal road towards a new culture,” he told the academy members, who, he said, “have the pulse” of contemporary culture.
The Swedish Academy, founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, has 18 members, who are elected for life. It is considered the foremost authority on the Swedish language, and since 1901 has chosen the annual winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In 2018, the Nobel Prize was postponed to the following year due to a sexual harassment and corruption scandal involving some of the academy’s members. In the fallout, a number stood down. Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf then formally amended the statutes to make it possible for members to resign.
Pope Francis told the group that “dialogue is not synonymous with relativism.”
He said: “Indeed, society is all the more noble whenever it cultivates the search for truth and is rooted in fundamental truths, and especially when it acknowledges that ‘every human being possesses an inalienable dignity.’”
“Believers and nonbelievers alike can agree on this principle,” he said.