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Pope Francis on Friday denounced COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation in a meeting with a "fact-checking" network of Catholic journalists, reports The Associated Press.
Francis told the group that people are creating a "distortion of reality based on fear" when it comes to information on COVID-19.
"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 encouraged accurate journalism that helps people understand scientific facts, but condemned belittling others based on errors in their views.
"Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility," the pope 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 said that he considered access to accurate scientific information a "human right" and that it should be promoted among those who are in a position to be deceived by online misinformation.
The Vatican previously announced that receiving COVID-19 vaccinations is "morally acceptable" for Catholics despite the fact that some of the vaccines were developed based on research on the cells of aborted fetuses.
Francis has encouraged vaccinations, asking Catholics to be aware of their "moral obligation" to promote the health of others in their communities.
Some Catholics have chosen not to receive vaccinations because of research on aborted fetus cells.