ROME — Pope Francis praised Catholic News Service for its work in supporting the church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel and in making the truth known, particularly in an era of misinformation.

“We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home,” he said in written remarks.

During a private audience in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Feb. 1, the pope thanked the news service for its work and said, “I encourage you to continue fostering dialogue and honest communication between individuals and communities.”

The pope handed his prepared speech to a delegation representing Catholic News Service, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The United States bishops founded CNS in 1920, and today, with headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS continues to provide comprehensive coverage of the church.

The CNS delegation was led by Cindy Wooden, Rome bureau chief, and included the Rome bureau’s five other staff members. The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions kept the delegation limited to those already residing in Rome.

As is often his custom, Pope Francis said he preferred handing out — rather than reading out loud — his written remarks to allow for a more informal encounter, which lasted 45 minutes.

In his written message, the pope said, “I am pleased to greet you who represent the many other journalists of Catholic News Service on the occasion of the centennial of its establishment.”

“Over these past hundred years, Catholic News Service has provided an invaluable contribution to the English-speaking world through its coverage of the church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

Citing an issue he underlined in his message for the 2021 World Communications Day, the pope said, “In an age when news can be easily manipulated and misinformation spread, you seek to make the truth known in a way that is, in the words of your motto, ‘fair, faithful and informed.'”

“I thank you for your work and I encourage you to continue fostering dialogue and honest communication between individuals and communities.”

“May the spirit of communion with the bishop of Rome, which has always been a hallmark of Catholic News Service, continue to guide your efforts to serve the truth with humility and responsibility,” he said, assuring the journalists he was praying for them and their colleagues.

In remarks prepared by Greg Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of CNS, and by Wooden, the pope was given a brief history of the news service and its desire “to be faithful to the vocation of Catholic journalists: To serve the truth” and be “fair, faithful and informed.”

Established as a way to respond to the needs of diocesan newspapers and the growing numbers of Catholics, the early news service covered the most pressing topics at the time, and which still receive great attention today, such as, “what the pope says, immigration, Catholic education, war and peace, and the defense of human dignity,” Wooden told the pope.

The Rome bureau was founded 70 years ago, she added, “years before the start of the Second Vatican Council.”

“After 100 years, our goal remains the same, to serve the church and the people of God, helping them understand what is happening in the world and in the church with faithfulness to the truth in a fair and balanced way,” Wooden said.