Pope Francis told Vatican journalists on Saturday to remember that the Catholic Church is not a political organization or a multinational company, but that “the Church exists to bring the word of Jesus to the world and to make possible today an encounter with the living Jesus.”

In a meeting with veteran Vatican journalists on Nov. 13, the pope urged the importance of on-the-ground reporting and in-person interviews to communicate the truth. He also offered an explanation of what the Church is and what it is not.

“Please, remember also that the Church is not a political organization with left and right wings, as is the case in parliaments. At times, unfortunately, our considerations are reduced to this, with some root in reality. But no, the Church is not this,” Pope Francis said.

“It is not a large multinational company headed by managers who study at the table how best to sell their product. The Church does not build itself on the basis of its own project, it does not draw from itself the strength to move forward and it does not live by marketing strategies.”

The pope described the Church as “a vehicle” to bring the mercy of Christ to the world.

“The Church, composed of men and women who are sinners like everyone else, was born and exists to reflect the light of Another, the light of Jesus, just as the moon does with the sun,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke at a ceremony in which he conferred the title of “Knight” and “Dame” of the Grand Cross of the Order of Pope Pius upon Vatican reporters Philip Pullella and Valentina Alazraki.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Alazraki has reported from more than 150 flights on the papal plane. The Mexican journalist for Noticieros Televisa has covered five pontificates as a Vatican correspondent. Pullella has served as a correspondent for Reuters in Rome since 1983.

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Pullella has said that his approach to covering the Vatican is to cover it as an institution like the United Nations or the White House.

“My rule on covering the Vatican is to take religion out of the story whenever possible,” Pullella said in an interview with Reuters in 2018.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope described journalism as not simply a profession, but a mission “to explain the world.”

He encouraged journalists to escape “from the tyranny of always being online,” to get out from behind their computer screens, in order to encounter and communicate reality.

“We need journalists who are willing to ‘wear out the soles of their shoes,’ to get out of the newsroom, to walk around the city, to meet people, to assess the situations in which we live in our time,” Pope Francis said.

“For a journalist, listening means having the patience to meet face to face with the people to be interviewed … the sources from which to receive news. Listening always goes hand in hand with seeing, with being present: certain nuances, sensations, and well-rounded descriptions can only be conveyed to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen for him - or herself,” he said.

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The pope’s comments came just over two weeks after Vatican journalists protested the lack of access to report on President Joe Biden’s meeting with Francis firsthand.

After journalists were already barred from having a pool representative present for the initial handshake, the Vatican also abruptly canceled its scheduled live broadcast of the meeting without explanation.

The Associated Press reported that it had formally complained to the Vatican about the canceled live stream, along with members of the Vatican correspondents’ association. The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association declared the group's solidarity with Vatican reporters in expressing disappointment with the lack of transparency.

“Every piece of news, every fact we talk about, every reality we describe needs to be investigated,” Pope Francis said.

“At a time when millions of pieces of information are available on the web, and when many people obtain their information and form their opinions on social media, where unfortunately the logic of simplification and opposition sometimes prevails, the most important contribution that good journalism can make is that of in-depth analysis.”