We begin in Rome today where, at this morning’s Papal General Audience, the Holy Father reflected back on his recent trip to Chile and Peru. Talking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered at St.Peter’s Square, the Pope said:
"In my recent Apostolic Journey to Chile and Peru, I had the joy of encountering God’s pilgrim people and encouraging the growth of social harmony in respect for the rich diversity of those nations."
Also from Rome today, the Pope released his much-anticipated message for the 52nd World Day of Social Communications, a day to be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 13th, during the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. The theme chosen by the Holy Father relates to the so-called “fake news”, namely the baseless information that contributes to generating a strong polarization of opinions caused by the misleading and distortion of facts.
With this theme, Pope Francis strongly reaffirms the urgent need for widespread and in-depth reflection on this phenomenon. “People”, he said, “have a responsibility to check the source of what they share on social media to ensure it is not "fake news", designed to further spread prejudices or increase fear”.
The message is a reflection on the theme: "'The truth will set you free. Fake news and journalism for peace." The Pope has asked that media professions promote "a journalism of peace," which does not mean ignoring problems, but rather, "a journalism that is truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines." He ended his message with his own adaptation of the "Prayer of St. Francis"
"Where there is shouting, let us practice listening," the prayer said. "Where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity." "Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust," it continued. "Where there is hostility, let us bring respect; and where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.
And now, we take you to a developing story in the Congo where the Catholic Bishops of that country have condemned again, the "excessive and disproportionate use of force" by security forces that recently dispersed protesters demanding President Joseph Kabila hold the new elections he promised as part of a church-brokered peace accord in 2016.
On Monday, the bishops confirmed that peaceful marches have been violently repressed and smothered with tear gas and gunfire in 95 Catholic parishes, leaving six people dead and another 127 injured, by police bullets.
It added that peaceful protests had been violently prevented after Mass in more than 60 parishes, resulting in over 210 Catholics being detained. "Once again, the Church deplores the excessive and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators with nothing in their hands but Bibles, rosaries and palms," the bishops said.
The Catholic Church makes up almost half of 68 million people of the Congo, who has pressed President Kabila to step down since his second and final term expired more than a year ago.A church-brokered accord in December 2016 allowed the president to stay in office, alongside an opposition head of government, pending elections by the end of 2017.
However, in November, the Congo's Electoral Commission said the ballot would be postponed until 2018, effectively extending the current President's term another year, violating the accord that the bishops negotiated back in 2016.
I will bring you more on this story as it unfolds in the days to come.
That is all that for today. Join us again tomorrow when I bring you news and stories from the Perspective of a Catholic lens.