NEWS BRIEFS

Tej Francis

VATICAN CITY

Pope condemns ‘fake news’ in annual message on Social Communications

(Catholic culture) Pope Francis condemned “fake news” and called for a “journalism of peace” in his message for the World Day of Social Communications.

The Pope said that false news-which he described as “disinformation online or in the traditional media”-serves partisan political purposes. Fake news, he said, builds upon “stereotypes and common social prejudices.” He argued that in the internet era, the development of “homogenous digital environments” contributes to a situation in which inaccurate reports are not corrected or challenged.

The Pope’s message is entitled “The truth will set you free: fake news and journalism for peace.” The World Day of Social Communications will be observed on May 13. But the Pope’s message for that occasion is traditionally made public on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists.

In his message the Pope said: “The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict.” He decried the use of “falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines” to suit partisan purposes, and said that conscientious journalists should pursue an “education for truth.”

“Amid feeding frenzies and the mad rush for a scoop, they must remember that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons,” the Pontiff said. He urged reporters to be “less concentrated on breaking news than on exploring the underlying causes of conflicts.”

Pope Francis even argued that some journalistic reports can be classified as “fake news” even when they are true. He wrote: An impeccable argument can indeed rest on undeniable facts, but if it is used to hurt another and to discredit that person in the eyes of others, however correct it may appear, it is not truthful. The papal message called for efforts by government and media outlets to weed out false news.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA

Damascus bombing kills 9 in Christian districts

(CNA/EWTN News) An estimated nine people were killed in a bombing on Monday afternoon in Damascus. The shelling targeted the Bab Touma and al-Shaghour districts, which are historically Christian areas, and several churches were damaged as well.

At least 18 additional people in Old Damascus were injured in the bombings. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. A bomb reportedly caused “severe damage” to the Maronite cathedral in Damascus. According to Archbishop Samir Nassar, the bomb also knocked out water and electricity.

This is not Archbishop Samir’s first brush with death this month: a bomb hit his bedroom Jan. 8. He survived unscathed due to an extremely well-timed trip to the bathroom before the bombing began.

The Maronites are an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with Rome. There are about 3 million Maronites in the world. Although the church originated in the Levant, there are now significant Maronite populations in Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. The Maronites have faced persecution throughout their history.

The Syrian civil war began nearly seven years ago, in March 2011. More than 400,000 people have been killed. At least 4.8 million have become refugees, and another 8 million have been internally displaced.

What began as demonstrations against the nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has become a complex fight among the Syrian regime; moderate rebels; Kurds; and Islamists such as Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State.

VATICAN CITY

Homeless Man Given Requiem Mass Burial at the Vatican

(Epicpew) Cesar Willy De Vroe had lost everything. He no longer had any contact with his three siblings, he had no worldly possessions, and his health had deteriorated. But Cesar, a homeless man who lived in Rome, was given a Requiem Mass at the Vatican yesterday. His body was laid to rest in the cemetery of the Teutonic College within the walls of the Vatican.

Cesar spent most of his life seeking refuge. He referred to himself as “God’s tramp”. His journey started at a young age. Cesar’s mother was a prostitute, so he found a home with Father Daniele Bisato, a pastor of San Agostino in Ventimiglia. Since September 2017, he lived with the Missionaries of Charity in Rome.

When he was 47 years old, Cesar had an encounter with the Lord and became a member of the Catholic Church. He didn’t let his poverty stop him from living a generous life for the Lord. Even in the harshest of conditions, he would give the little he had away to those who needed it more. “Even though people don’t believe me, every time I give, or give something away, I have the same or get back twice as much that same day,” he once said when asked about his generosity.

Cesar passed away on January 4, 2018 – just before the feast of Epiphany. In his funeral homily, Monsignor Smet said Cesar and the three kings were not that much different. They were all “vagrants of God,” seeking “fullness of life and happiness.”

Cesar’s body was laid to rest beside Willy Herteleer. In 2015, Willy was the first homeless man to be buried in the Vatican cemetery in many years. Willy spent his time on earth as a street missionary, asking pilgrims, “When did you last go to confession? Are you going to communion? Do you go to Mass?”

Cesar and Willy both lived in the margins of society. But their lives are a testament of the power of faith, hope, and love.

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