Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church has said “gossiping is a worse plague” than the coronavirus, claiming it can be used to divide the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking during his weekly address from a window above St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the Pope urged people to “never gossip”.
He said: “Please, brothers and sisters, let’s make an effort not to gossip. Gossiping is a worse plague than COVID. Worse. Let’s make a big effort: no gossiping.”
Francis continued: “The devil is the great gossip. He is always saying bad things about others because he is the liar who tries to split the Church.”
In the unscripted comments, the 83-year-old added: “If something goes wrong, offer silence and prayer for the brother or sister who make a mistake, but never gossip.”
It is the not the first time Francis has brought up the subject of gossiping. In 2016, he urged priests and nuns to avoid spreading stories within their community to prevent the “terrorism of gossip”.
In 2018, while making an address at St Peter’s Square, he said gossip kills “because the tongue kills, like a knife”.
After more than two months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, worshippers were allowed to return to St Peter’s Square in May under strict social distancing rules.
Last week, Pope Francis held his first weekly public audience in six months, as the Vatican tries to make a return to some normality.
In April, the Pope celebrated Palm Sunday mass behind closed doors because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Francis is next month due to visit the Italian town of Assisi in what will be his first trip out of Rome since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in February.
Italy has been one of the worst-hit European countries, with more than 277,000 confirmed cases and more than 35,500 deaths of people who have tested positive, according to Johns Hopkins University.