Pope Francis has taken a stand against COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation, saying people have created a “distortion of reality based on fear” after meeting with a “fact-checking” network of Catholic journalists.
“We can hardly fail to see that these days, in addition to the pandemic, an ‘infodemic’ is spreading: a distortion of reality based on fear, which in our global society leads to an explosion of commentary on falsified if not invented news,” said Francis.
Francis, who called access to scientific information a “human right,” also spoke out against fake news.
“Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility,” he said. “Reality is always more complex than we think and we must respect the doubts, the concerns and the questions that people raise, seeking to accompany them without ever dismissing them.”
Francis has previously encouraged all Catholics to get the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it a “moral obligation.”
“Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts,” he said earlier this month in a speech to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. “Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.”
And in a video released in August 2021, he attributed the development of COVID-19 vaccines to “God’s grace.”
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” he said, adding that vaccines “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”
“Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable,” he said, referring to the choice to get vaccinated as an “act of love.”
“Love for oneself, love for our families and friends, and love for all peoples. Love is also social and political,” he said, noting that social and political love is comprised of “small, individual gestures capable of transforming and improving societies.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.