For the second time in two weeks, Pope Francis has warned against the temptation to gossip and speak ill of others. He has also made another reference to someone who has escaped mention in Church homilies in recent years: the Devil.
Preaching to Vatican staff Tuesday at an early morning Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s guesthouse where he is staying, the Pope said that complaining behind each other's backs is a temptation that comes "from the evil one who does not want the spirit to dwell among us and give peace.”
He urged those present to model their relationships on those of the earliest Christians, whose new life in baptism was expressed in “unity, unanimity, that harmony of feelings in mutual love.”
He also said meekness — one of the virtues the new Pope loves most, according to previous interviews — is crucial to harmony, but it has been "a bit forgotten." Meekness, he added, has "many enemies" and the first is gossip. "When one prefers gossiping, gossiping about another, it's like clobbering another. This is normal, it happens to everyone, including me — it is a temptation of the evil one."
The struggle against such harmful chatter, he said, is something that continually sows tensions in parishes, families, neighborhoods, and among friends. Although he did not explicitly refer to it, such gossip has also been the cause of dissension within the Vatican, as the recent Vatileaks scandal revealed.
Christians, he said, "must not judge anyone" because the Lord is the only judge. They should "keep quiet," but if they must say something they must speak only to the person who could remedy the situation, "not the whole neighborhood."
"If, with the grace of the spirit, we were able to stop gossiping, it would be a huge step forward," Francis said, and "it would do everyone good."
In another morning homily, on March 28, Pope Francis said speaking poorly of someone else is equivalent to selling them “like a commodity,” not unlike Judas who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. “There is some arcane pleasure in scandalmongering,” he said, adding that it is important to pray and ask for God’s grace “for the good of the other.”
Since his election last month, the Pope has made frequent references to the devil. In one of his first tweets, he warned followers not to “believe the evil one” when he suggests there is “nothing that can be done in the face of violence, injustice and sin.” He warned cardinals not to “cede to the bitterness and pessimism that the devil offers us every day.” In another homily, he preached that when one does not profess Jesus Christ, “one professes the worldliness of the devil.”
As a cardinal in 2010, Pope Francis was also unafraid to single out the devil’s works, saying same-sex marriage was a move by the “father of lies.”
Observers have noted this emphasis with interest, especially as explicit mentions of the devil largely fell into disuse in the years following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. With his disappearance from Church texts, exorcists complained that the rite of exorcism had become useless against demons.
Pope Francis’s frequent allusions to the evil one may well be part of an effort —one that Benedict XVI had already begun — to bring back healing and harmony to the Church, and parts of the Vatican in particular.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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