Pope Francis has said misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines is a human rights violation.
He condemned the “distortion of reality based on fear" on Friday during a meeting with Catholic journalists who have formed a fact-checking network.
It is the second time in less than a month that Francis has spoken out against misinformation during the pandemic.
The 85-year-old has frequently called for responsible journalism that searches for the truth and respects individuals.
"To be properly informed, to be helped to understand situations based on scientific data and not fake news is a human right," he said.
“We can hardly fail to see that these days, in addition to the pandemic, an ‘infodemic’ is spreading.
"In our global society [this] leads to an explosion of commentary on falsified if not invented news.”
The Pope also stressed that those who believe conspiracy theories about COVID-19 should be mercifully helped to understand true scientific facts.
“Fake news has to be refuted, but individual persons must always be respected, for they believe it often without full awareness or responsibility,” he 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.”
Some Catholics -- including some conservative US bishops and cardinals -- have refused to get COVID-19 vaccines.
The Vatican’s doctrine office, however, has said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive jabs, including those based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses.
Both Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
Francis has been one of the most vocal religious leaders speaking out in favour of vaccines and respect for measures to fight the pandemic.
He has implied that people have a “moral obligation” to ensure the health care of themselves and others, and the Vatican recently required all staff to either be vaccinated or show proof of having had COVID-19 to access their workplaces.