Gossip a plague worse than COVID says Pope

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Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to lead his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican Sept. 2, 2020. It was the pope’s first public audience with pilgrims in six months. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

Give up a tool of the devil, urges Pope Francis

Gossip is “a plague worse than COVID,” Pope Francis said, asserting that while speaking ill of others comes almost naturally, it is a tool of the devil to divide the Church.

Commenting on 6 September on the Sunday Gospel reading about Jesus telling his disciples what to do when a member of the community errs and requires correction, Pope Francis said that rather than helping the other mend his or her ways, “when we see a mistake, a fault, a slip, in that brother or sister, usually the first thing we do is to go and recount it to others; to gossip.”

Gossiping sows division, he told people gathered in St Peter’s Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer.

“The great gossiper is the devil, who always goes around recounting bad things about others, because he is the liar who seeks to divide the Church, to distance brothers and sisters and not create community,” the pope said.

“Please, brothers and sisters, let us make an effort not to gossip,” he said. “Let’s try: no gossip.”

Pope Francis meets indigenous people from the Amazonian region during the second week of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican 17 October 2019. PHOTO:CNS/Vatican Media

The day’s Gospel reading (Mt 18:15-20) is often cited as a lesson in “fraternal correction,” urging people to speak directly and privately to a person they believe is in the wrong. If that doesn’t work, Jesus tells the disciples to take “one or two others along with you” and try again. If that, too, is unsuccessful, then the community of the Church should be informed.

The goal, the pope said, is not to embarrass or punish, but to rehabilitate.

In the Gospel, Jesus said that if even the love and support of the community are not enough to correct the person, then the community should treat him “as a Gentile and a tax collector”.

“The great gossiper is the devil, who always goes around recounting bad things about others,” Pope francis

“This expression, seemingly so scornful,” the pope said, “in reality invites us to put the brother or sister in God’s hands: only the Father will be able to show a greater love than that of all brothers and sisters put together.”

After reciting the prayer, the pope greeted several groups in the square, including staff members and new students at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The US seminarians arrived in Rome on 20 August and were required to observe a 14-day quarantine before venturing to the Vatican and out into the city.

Last week the Pope’s personal notes written during last October’s Amazon synod were quoted in a journal article by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.

Copies of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Querida Amazonia” (Beloved Amazonia), are pictured at a news conference for the release of the exhortation at the Vatican 12 February 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

In his article, Father Spadaro included quotations from what he described as “personal notes Pope Francis wanted to share with La Civilta Cattolica,” which included specific references to the October 2019 synod debate about ordaining married men to minister to Catholics in far-flung Amazon villages that go months without Mass.

At the synod, the pope wrote, “There was a discussion … a rich discussion … a well-founded discussion, but no discernment, which is something different from arriving at a good and justified consensus or a relative majority.”

As Pope Francis has said repeatedly, he wrote that “we must understand the synod is more than a parliament; and in this specific case” of married priests, the synod “could not avoid this dynamic”.

“On this argument there was a rich, productive and even necessary parliament, but nothing more. For me, that was decisive in the final discernment when I thought about how to do the exhortation.”

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