THE Pope has denounced “fake news” as evil and urged journalists to make it their mission to search for the truth.

After a week in which Francis faced unprecedented bad press during his South American tour, the pontiff released his annual social communications message, dedicated this year to “fake news and journalism for peace”.

Francis wrote that the first fake news dates from the Biblical beginning of time, when Eve was tempted to take an apple from the Garden of Eden based on disinformation from the serpent.

Francis said: “The strategy of this skilled ‘Father of Lies’ is precisely mimicry, that sly and dangerous form of seduction that worms its way into the heart with false and alluring arguments.”

In today’s information age, he called for a shared commitment to rediscovering the “dignity of journalism” and for reporters to speak the truth with a journalism that is “truthful and opposed to falsehoods, rhetorical slogans, and sensational headlines”.

The message made no reference to how some public figures – most notably US president Donald Trump – often label unflattering or critical reports “fake news” to try to discredit the information.

Before he became pope, Francis was known for his frosty relations with the Argentine media. Francis has since learned to use the media to get his message across, but still frequently complains about what he considers one-sided reporting.